Local mission trips help youth grow in faith, service to others Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Jul. 28, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
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Love Begins Here middle school missionary Ella Mueller from Madison visits with Don Stiegert, a resident at Sylvan Crossings in Fitchburg. To view or purchase photos, go to
(Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MADISON -- “We boldly take initiative to bring love to our neighbors, evangelizing with patience and joy . . . No task is too small in the eyes of the Lord when filled with great love.”

These words are part of the Love Begins Here (LBH) mission statement.

Nowhere were these words more exemplified than during a recent week spent in Madison by the LBH missionaries.

From visiting the elderly to packing potatoes for the hungry to making meals for their peers on the mission, the time spent by these 60 middle schoolers was simply “awesome,” as shared by eighth grader Julia Sullivan, a member of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie.

“I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces, how happy they are, and it makes me feel really good to go out and help people -- it’s so easy to do,” said Sullivan.

Encountering Christ

Love Begins Here is an apostolate of the Diocese of Madison that works to provide youth with an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in a life-changing way through week-long, local mission trips where they live in community and continue His work on earth.

During the summer, groups ranging from middle school aged to high school aged make a local parish or school their home for a week and partake in mission work nearby.

Some of the locales in LBH’s eighth summer included Berlin, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, and a return trip to Madison, where Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish hosted two middle school weeks.

Some of the work is done right at the “home” for the teens as LBH Core Team member and Kitchen Coordinator Meghan Bonham leads the middle school aged missionaries in preparing the nightly meals.

“They’re really great workers,” said Bonham. “It’s fun watching them work and it’s really nice to see them really take charge and want to do this. They really want to do something that they’re good at.”

Eighth grader Maeve Hall from Waterloo was one of the teens helping in the kitchen during “taco night”.

“I love meeting people,” Hall said about the experience. “[The work] may seem boring, but they make it fun . . . I just meet such nice people. I keep coming back for that.”

Kat Goumas, eighth grader and member of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Beloit, also enjoyed the kitchen work and the opportunities to grow in her faith such as daily Mass, praying the Rosary, and hearing testimonials from LBH leaders about their own faith.

“If it wasn’t for this, I’d probably be sitting at home [on] Instagram, Snapchatting, or social media and I’ve learned so much I didn’t know and how it’s okay not to know everything.”

Helping neighbors

Most LBH missionaries head out in their car groups -- four to five teens plus a leader -- to do various service projects. A few of them on this trip included packaging food for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin in Madison, a car wash to raise money for Care Net Pregnancy Center, and visiting the elderly at Sylvan Crossings Assisted Living in Fitchburg.

LBH first-timer Ella Mueller, from Good Shepherd Parish in Madison -- one of 12 parishes in the diocese represented during the week -- enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve never done this before, so it’s an experience,” said Mueller of her visit to Sylvan Crossings. “It makes me feel happy that I can, just by talking to them, make them happy.

The teens sat down for long conversations with the residents, and even got some advice from them, one resident stressing the importance of school and “if you want to make something of yourself, you’ve got to work at it.”

Eighth grader Veronika Souzek and her fellow missionaries spent time at the facility playing cards, namely crazy eights, with some of the residents.

“I like that we get to interact with a lot of people and that we can help people directly,” said Souzek. “We can have a lot of fun doing it. It’s not a lot of hard work.”

Their car leader, Sarah King, who works in youth ministry at St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie, said she loved seeing a side of youth in action most people may not get a chance to see.

“You really get to see how much they love to serve and really have this desire to go out and change the world and I think that’s so beautiful,” said King. “They just have so much enthusiasm for what they’re doing.”

For more information on Love Begins Here, go to or www.face

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