Since June of this past summer, I have been experiencing a very odd phenomenon. Weekly, if not daily, parents of middle and high school students that I work with make a point to stop by my office, send me e-mails, or chat with me at local sporting events. Given I am a friendly person and employed by the Church, I would not be surprised at a friendly hello and how are you doing sort of conversation in any of these situations.
It’s the content that I would describe as the out of ordinary phenomenon. They tell me about how their kids have more regular prayer lives, complain less when waking up for Mass on Sunday morning, are more confident, happy, and excited about living the faith.
While telling me about these changes they have seen, they share their gratitude for the Love Begins Here mission trip that their child participated in.
What is Love Begins Here?
During the summer of 2009, 56 youth and young adults from the Diocese of Madison joined together across three weeks to begin love right here in the greater Madison area —through the mission trip program Love Begins Here (LBH).
Inspired by the work and life of the Missionaries of Charity and guided by the Church’s social teaching, over this three-week period of time we cleaned and helped to restore a home in disrepair, created and paved new trails, painted classrooms at a Catholic school, visited the elderly, assisted at a mobile food pantry, and delivered meals to the homebound.
Combine the service with an authentically Catholic prayer life and a healthy dose of fun, and Christ had a lot of room to move and change lives.
Months after her mission trip ended, Danielle Schiestle, from Waunakee, said that, “I have prayed a lot more, and my relationship with God has become a lot closer and better. I feel LBH helped me grow more in my faith. I also made a lot of friends who I still am in touch with. I can’t wait for the summer and another LBH trip!”
School year LBH
Not only have lives of the participants from the summer of 2009 continued to change, but they have also helped to change the lives of those around them. Gina Pignotti, or Miss P, Core Team Member and middle school teacher at St. James School in Madison took the LBH mission into her classroom and throughout the Madison community this year. Her eighth grade class provided music on State St. while handing out lunches to the homeless, visited the residents at All Saints Assisted Living Community, volunteered at a mobile food pantry, and spent time serving lunch and entertaining the residents at the Avalon Assisted Living Facility.
As student, Jack Childers described his experiences serving the local community, “I have learned a lot of things over the years — math, literature, and such — but nothing really compares to what I have learned in service. You don’t have to go on some mission trip to Africa or Haiti to do good. If you just look around you, there are people who need help in big ways.”
Her students all echoed the lessons they learned about self sacrifice, the power of a simple smile, and how service has been huge in bringing their class together. As Maddy Schwartz described, “Doing these service projects as a class gives us a chance to work together in serving others, because we want to live our lives like Jesus.”
Having experienced the power of service, Miss P has not had a problem promoting LBH for this coming summer to her students. They cannot wait to spend a whole week of their summers serving others, growing with their peers and having a blast while doing so.
LBH 2010 is not only for those students at St. James; Danielle, from the summer of 2009, and any other middle and high school students in the diocese are in luck. Love Begins Here is gearing up for this summer with three high school mission trip weeks and one middle school week. Youth can come in groups with their parish youth minister or another adult from their community, or as individuals or in small groups.
For more information, contact Lindsay Becher, LBH Mission Director, at
or visit www.madisonlovebeginshere.blogspot.com or www.madisondiocese.org/lovebeginshere