VERONA -- As the sun set on St. Andrew Parish in Verona one Thursday night last summer, laughter was echoing through the city streets. Twenty young people -- high schoolers, school teachers, seminarians, and the like -- sat around a campfire in the parking lot reminiscing about the week they had shared together.
Fr. William Vernon, pastor of St. Andrew Parish, and the host of these young people at his parish for the week, had generously treated them to Culver's, as the story telling pressed on late in the night.
These young people, who were nearing the end of a week of service, prayer, and life in community, were brought together by Love Begins Here (LBH) -- an apostolate of the Madison Diocese devoted to providing local, life-changing mission trips for middle and high school youth.
The stories shared that night were good reminders of what happens when young people immerse themselves in doing good for others, for the Lord. One young man shared that he learned to laugh again. A chaperone told the others how she had learned that you must cling to Jesus -- literally and figuratively.
Everyone had someone in mind that they were going to invite with them during Love Begins Here's 2011 sessions.
Serving those in need
Inspired by Blessed Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, LBH works to serve the poor -- materially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually -- in the Madison Diocese. In fact, since its inception in 2009, these young people have spent over 3,700 hours doing so. Such a number is impressive, but what is more impressive are the multitudes of ways those young people have learned that the Holy Spirit works through them to set the world ablaze.
As one young person wrote last summer about her experience, "Love is an action, and even a simple action can be one of love. Mother Teresa gave herself out of love and did it selﬂessly. I guess I learned to do that, just go out and do something."
The youth of the Madison Diocese are getting ready once again for a life-changing summer. And how couldn't they when they enjoyed last summer so much, as Luke Dietzen of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains said, "I expected to like parts of the week and not like parts, but I loved every second of it."
Openings still available
While some weeks are still filling up, there is room for more middle and high school youth to register.
Openings in the middle school weeks are Tuesday, July 5, through Wednesday, July 8, (at St. Joseph, Baraboo) and Tuesday, July 19, through Friday, July 22 (at St. James, Madison).
High school youth can still sign up for Tuesday, June 26, through Friday, July 1, (at St. Mary, Pine Bluff) and Sunday, July 10, through Friday, July 15 (at St. Mary, Pine Bluff).
To begin the registration process, visit www.madisondiocese.org/lovebeginshere
Love Begins Here is also looking for work to be accomplished between Sunday, June 19, and Friday, July 29, in the greater Madison area. If you know of any individual, family, or organization in need of some help, get in touch with LBH Mission Director Lindsay Becher at
The work LBH engages in varies greatly, from yard work, simple construction, painting, visiting the elderly, and more, but there is no project too small, large, or obscure to consider.
World Youth Day pilgrimage
While there will be much love beginning all over the Madison Diocese this summer, the mission of LBH will be spread much wider. Come August, a group of five LBH core team members and five LBH high school teens will be traveling to Spain for a World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrimage.
In January, a small group of Love Begins Here lovers entered an International Catholic film contest called Goodness Reigns. While it seemed like a stretch at the time that a simple four-minute movie created all in the course of a day would yield such great fruit, LBH won the high school youth group leg of the competition this spring.
As a result, these 10 young people will be enjoying the festivities of World Youth Day for free and even have an opportunity to show their film at a film festival, which is a part of the official WYD program.
The winning film, which can be watched on the LBH Web page, is devoted to sharing the mission of Love Begins Here and our patron Blessed Mother Teresa's call to serve the poor in our own homes. Brooke Luger, a freshman from St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo, spearheaded the film project.
Even though summer is just beginning, it is exciting to dream about what will be shared around campfires as this one draws to a close. With your support in prayer, LBH trusts that the youth will continue to spread the good news of the impact they are able to have in their own backyard and what a truly awesome experience it is to share the mission with other young people around the world.
Lindsay Becher is the Love Begins Here mission director.