300 teens in Champaign take ‘pray and work’ motto to HEART

Photo Caption: Representative youth from among the 300 at the Catholic HEART Workcamp in Champaign offer prayers at the close of a morning Mass at The High School of Saint Thomas More.

By: By Tom Dermody

CHAMPAIGN — Rain doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit, nor did a few days of it keep nearly 200 young people from amplifying the Gospel during a weeklong Catholic HEART Workcamp here July 5-11.

“You have two choices in response to the will of God,” said Father Ed McCarthy, a priest of the Diocese of Orlando who served as camp chaplain. “‘How little can I get by with?’ or the Ignatian model of ‘What more can I do?’ Even when tired and wet, choose the magis, the more.”

And that’s what the teens — representing five states — chose whether their service sites were outdoors or indoors. The camp’s base and host for daily Masses and other devotions was The High School of Saint Thomas More.

“It’s a great experience, to grow closer to God and make awesome friends,” said Hannah Lange, one of a contingent of 50 camp participants from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton, as the rain muddied her efforts to make a walkway in the yard of a senior Champaign resident.

The HEART in the camp’s title stands for “Helping Everyone Attain Repairs Today.” More than 15,000 teens were expected to take part in similar camps around the nation this summer.

“It’s centered on the Eucharist, it’s centered on reconciliation,” said Father McCarthy, one of five priests present during the weeklong camp. He called the community service aspect “essential,” reflecting the Benedictine practice of Ora et Labora — “Pray and Work.”

“This program works,” said Father McCarthy. “By the time we pray on Friday, the kids are changed.”

It even works when it rains. Just ask Mickey Nickrent, a member of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mahomet who serves as co-manager of the Champaign camp with her husband, Tony.

On July 8, a downpour caused one work team — including Father Jeff Read from Jasper, Indiana — to stay at the school, where they cleaned gum off the bottom of the lunchroom tables and did filing in the library.

“God had a plan for this work team,” said Nickrent. “The young people in this group spent the entire afternoon asking Father all kinds of questions about the Catholic Church. It was amazing to hear their questions,” said Nickrent, who coordinates the week’s activities from the school library.

The theme for the week was “Amplify.”

“It means step up. Magnify,” said Father McCarthy. “Be committed. Become aware. You’ve got the light of Christ. Now share it.”

Yes, even in the rain.

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