WAHOO ((BNHS/SNR) - For the third year in a row, students from Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo were able to experience serving the poor and spreading the love of Christ in Chicago and Gallup, N.M.
Fifty-four students and 24 chaperones were able to attend the two trips in late May and early June.
“I love the interaction with the people and the feeling of satisfaction after I deliver meals to someone who is hungry,” said Celia Kuhfahl, a third-year attendee. “I also created a tremendous bond with the group I traveled with, and got a chance to personally talk with the people we serve.
“I have come to realize that these trips aren’t just for me,” she continued, “but I know in my heart we are making a difference in people’s lives. I am opening people’s eyes to Christ and I am helping them see hope in their journey. The mission trips have helped me see the importance of service to others.”
Bishop Neumann School began this summer experience in 2016, to teach the students the importance of service. It also puts into practice what is taught about encountering every person as a child of God. Bishop Neumann partnered with a group called Mission Youth to serve in the inner city of Chicago with the Missionaries of Charity and the Franciscans of the Eucharist.
Through the course of a week, students work in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, a home for the disabled, a school for at-risk youth, food pantries, and many other locations. Students stay at an inner-city Catholic school, sleeping on the floor with no air conditioning. It is a total immersion experience.
A unique attribute about the Chicago trip is being able to go with the Missionaries of Charity on their morning and evening runs: students deliver food to the homeless on the streets. They called it a humbling and uplifting experience at the same time.
Senior Halle Hiemstra said, “I am able to fully give myself to help those who need it. Seeing their faces light up and seeing their thankfulness meant the most to me.”
With such an overwhelming response from the students after the first year, it was decided to add another mission trip in 2017. It was decided to go to Gallup, N.M., the poorest diocese in the United States. Students are given an entirely different experience than in Chicago.
The New Mexico trip involves more physical labor. Students help in the homeless shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity and serve the elderly associated with the Little Sisters of the Poor. Students also serve the diocese with projects that need to be done.
This year, students worked one day at Sacred Heart School raking trash, moving debris, and playing with children who attend summer school. Students also moved rock and dirt, scraped and painted, and provided other manual labor at the Sacred Heart Retreat Center.
“I like the mission trip a lot because it was one of those things that made me realize how easy we’ve got it in life, said Jack Schenk, a junior at Bishop Neumann. “It made me appreciate what I have and I was able to go there and make their lives just a little bit easier.”
The impact of these trips has helped transform not only the lives of those who are served, but the students who are able to serve as well.
Beth Paisley, a chaperone on the New Mexico trip, said, “The thing that sticks with me is how joyful the Missionaries of Charity and the Little Sisters of the Poor are when serving the poor. We never saw them without a smile. Seeing our own students help out in whatever ways they were asked while going outside of their comfort zones, was truly rewarding.”
Bishop Neumann students also help in the local food pantry and will help this fall in Omaha at the Sienna Francis Home and in Lincoln at the Matt Talbot Soup Kitchen.
Students from St. Wenceslaus Grade School in Wahoo and St. John Nepomecene Grade School in Weston also play an important role. This year, in lieu of a class Christmas gift exchange, St. Wenceslaus students brought donations for the poor in Chicago and New Mexico. St. John students wrote notes that were taken to the homeless in Chicago. It has become a team effort between all the schools. Students have learned to emulate Mother Teresa’s words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”