Love Begins Here engages teens, serves neighbors Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 03, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
Members of a  Love Begins Here (LBH) car group pause for a photo with Molly McDermott from Middleton while doing garden work around her home during a recent LBH high school mission trip based at St. Bernard Parish in Middleton. Pictured, from left, are: Rose Cantrell, Natalie Ulaszek, McDermott, Ryan Schultz, and lead missionary Brad Grobbel. To view or purchase photo, go to (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MIDDLETON -- Spending an entire day at Love Begins Here (LBH) will make anyone question if they are doing enough with their 24 hours.

From sunup to sundown, and beyond, the LBH missionaries and leaders’ hours are filled with nonstop love, service, faith, and fun.

Love Begins Here is an apostolate of the Diocese of Madison Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. It provides youth with an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in a life-changing way through weeklong, local mission trips where they live in community and continue God’s work on earth.

It recently completed its ninth summer in the diocese with a high school group based out of St. Bernard Parish in Middleton.

More than 60 teens took part in the week divided into more than 20 “car groups” with an adult leader who spent the whole week doing service work and faith and social activities together.

Being engaged

As a recent Wednesday morning got underway, all the leaders met before waking up the teens.

Their theme for the day was “engage” and they prioritized ways to connect with their teens: talk, interact, get to know them, help them grow closer to God.

Following breakfast, packing lunches for the day, a few games to bond together, and daily Mass, it was time for the car groups to head out to their work sites.

During the week, some of the groups had spent time with residents at assisted living homes, packed items at food pantries, did house and yard work at neighbors homes, or stayed behind at the parish do to work there.

Four car groups went to the home of a woman named Molly, who lives just a few blocks from the church.

The sign near her front door said “Molly’s Garden,” and the yards around her house certainly showed that.

The more than a dozen teens helped her with weeding, mulching, and other important work to make a good garden look great.

One of the lead missionaries was Brad Grobbel, youth minister and co-director of Christian formation for grades six to 12 at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Sun Prairie.

“This is the peak of ministry,” said Grobbel. “You are literally seeing the mountain top of what we’re trying to do in the diocese and that’s Love Begins Here.”

“It’s so cool just to be present with them and let it build,” he added. “They love the mission so much that they just plug in really quickly.”

One of Grobbel’s car group members was Rose Cantrell, member of St. Christopher Parish in Verona, entering her sophomore year of high school next year.

It was Cantrell’s first year as an LBH missionary.

“It’s really fun, I like it,” said Cantrell. “It’s nice to do work with people and know that I’m helping.”

She added she liked meeting new friends and being able to practice her faith in new ways such as going to daily Mass and praying the Rosary.

“It’s cool to be with a lot of other people doing it with me instead of trying to do stuff by myself,” said Cantrell.

It was a special atmosphere at Molly’s house during the morning work session there.

The front, side, and back yards were filled with teens and leaders, doing yard work, while popular music rang loudly.

Molly and her two daughters gave instructions and helped when needed, including handing out cold water bottles, orange and grapefruit juice, and freshly baked cookies.

During lunchtime, Molly also invited the teens and leaders into her home to eat there.

Following lunch, the groups departed Molly’s house where there was mutual thanks and appreciation to go around.

Love begins at home

Some of the car groups stayed behind at the parish to do cleaning work there or man the kitchen to make dinner for the whole group in the evening.

Paul Jozwiak was the lead missionary of the group who stayed behind to make the meal.

Now in his fourth year with LBH, the third as a leader, he saw the work in the kitchen as just as important as anything being done during the week.

“I see it as serving those who are serving others,” said Jozwiak. “Someone’s got to make the food for everyone to eat and I feel like it’s a great honor to do it.”

Chicken stir-fry and brown rice was on the menu for the day. And the group made enough to feed nearly 80 people.

Kelsey Eyre, who like Jozwiak is from Lodi, was part of the kitchen group on this day.

The fifth-year LBH veteran has appreciated the importance of service.

“Sometimes people need help,” said Eyre, “and if at some point in your life you need help, it’s good to know that there are people out there willing to help . . . if you’re willing to sacrifice in your life, it’s easier to ask someone to sacrifice for you.”

Grobbel’s group wasn’t able to make their afternoon work site because of the rain that day, so they headed back to the parish to clean out some items in the LBH trailer, like paint rollers and pans.

It provided another opportunity for them to bond and grow closer together, especially when they need to problem solve by finding a water hose, finding where to hook up said hose, and coming up with a way to clean the items without everyone getting too wet.

Water fun would come soon though in the form of daily pool time.

Closer to Jesus

Following pool time, praying the Rosary back at church, and dinnertime, a faith-filled portion of the day began.

First came the nightly “Collatio” talk, in which one of the LBH Core Team members shared a story about his faith journey and struggles he had had in his life.

This was an appropriate transition to the next part of the evening, which was a Holy Hour with Eucharistic Adoration and opportunities for Confession.

Seven priests from the Diocese of Madison came to the church to offer the sacrament to the teens and leaders.

Following the Holy Hour, the entire group gathered outside for Collatio sharing, this time sharing their funny moments of the day along with moments in which they saw God in others, be it their leaders, the people they served, or even those they served with.

After meeting with other teens from their respective parishes, and an optional Night Prayer, it was time for sleep.

Classrooms of the St. Bernard school building served as the living quarters for the week.

More about Love Begins Here

LBH just wrapped up its ninth summer.

More than 600 teens took part in the program this summer totaling almost 17,000 hours of service.

That brings the grand total to nearly 80,000 hours since 2009.

More than 100 leaders over eight weeks helped out, along with the 12 Core Team members.

For more information on Love Begins Here, visit

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