By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer
Thirty-two members of St. Helen Catholic Church in Portales will help fix a hurricane-damaged home next month in New Orleans while attending a youth conference in Houma, La.
The St. Helen youth group will continue to hold fundraisers to help finance the seven-day trip to Steubenville on the Bayou, one in a series of regional, high-energy, summer conferences held throughout the country every summer by Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.
In addition to the youth, several adult chaperones and one priest, Father Jim McGowan, will also attend.
“Christ’s main teaching is that we identify with the poor and needy and this will be a good opportunity to do that, after undergoing a weekend of spiritual experiences at the conference,” said Tom Sullivan, the youth ministry leader at St. Helen.
The youth will work under the supervision of Operation Nehemiah and Habitat for Humanity, according to Elvia Garcia, administrative secretary at the church.
“Hundreds and hundreds of houses in the New Orleans area still have to be fixed after Hurricane Katrina,” Garcia said. “People are still living in trailers or are homeless.”
Garcia said the Portales group will join about 3,000 others in sleeping in a dome building on the floor during the conference.
“We will be sleeping on a clean floor. Can you imagine many who did not, during the hurricane?” Garcia said. “This is a retreat in which youth need to learn to be humble and to give without expecting anything back.”
Church youth members will be selling tickets for a drawing on Father’s Day and continue to hold other fundraisers, including car washes and bake sales until they depart for the trip June 26.
Sullivan said the Steubenville conferences are great because, in addition to spiritual formation, he said,
“Students feel the support of the church and know they are not alone; there are other Catholic teenagers moving along in the same direction. They will be a little more confident in their faith.”
In previous years, St. Helen youth have attended Steubenville conferences in Tucson and Denver.