WAHOO (SNR) – Thirty-five students from Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo, with eight chaperones recently embarked on a five-day mission trip to inner-city Chicago to work with the homeless, disabled, the elderly, and at-risk youth.
The trip was organized by Saunders Catholic Outreach and hosted by the Mission Youth Group in Chicago. The mission team from Bishop Neumann worked in homeless shelters, in soup kitchens, food pantries, a youth activity center, and a facility for disabled youth and adults. They gave meals to the homeless on the streets of Chicago, and they packed food for starving children in third-world countries. The students cooked meals, washed dishes, handed out clothing, folded laundry, played games, shared meals and got to know the stories of many individuals who needed assistance.
The students went with the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Blessed Mother Teresa, to serve the homeless in the streets and under bridges to hand out meals and gift bags before dawn.
Avery Freeman, a 2016 Bishop Neumann graduate going to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this fall and a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Wahoo, said she was skeptical about attending the trip and “didn’t feel like going.”
After returning, “Now that I’m back home, I can honestly say I wish I wasn’t home,” she said. “I could still be in Chicago helping people, feeding the poor, playing with abandoned children, going out and seeking the homeless. I loved every second of it. We were missionaries, evangelizing Christ’s love and mercy.”
Marcella Soucek, a member of St. Mary Parish in Davey who just completed her freshman year at Neumann, said she was not looking forward to the trip, either.
“I was scared to step out of my comfort zone,” she said, “but Christ helped me to realize what I needed to do. When we first started helping, I felt something new.
“I could see Jesus in these homeless men and women,” she continued. “They were so joyful that we were providing them with a meal, clothing, and even just a small conversation. Throughout the whole trip, a question stayed in my mind: ‘What if this was my family?’”
Like Freeman, she appreciated talking to the homeless men and women the students met, and learning their individual stories. She recounted one moment she said stuck with her in a particular way.
“As I was cleaning off the tables from a meal we served, I saw her collecting all the bread people had left behind. After she had collected the last piece of bread she sat down at the table, folded her hands, and said this prayer: ‘Lord Jesus, thank you for providing me with this meal. My children will not go to sleep hungry tonight.’ I finally realized how much these people need, and how grateful they are when they get it. They put their trust in the Lord to help them through this tough time, and he provides for them everything they need. We are just his apostles helping to carry out the mission. We are missionaries.”
“I wish everyone could experience what I, and the other students and chaperones experienced this past week,” she said. “It’s truly life-changing.”