St. Louis Teens Make Service Trip to Mississippi

By Jennifer Brinker
St. Louis Review
June 25, 2009


Jusean Archibald, center, helped other teens and adults from Mississippit restripe the parking lot at Holy Child Parish in Camton, MIss. He is a member of Fallible Human Beings.

A group of teens from St. Louis recently went “down South” to help some friends in need.

The group, “Fallible Human Beings,” is an ongoing collaborative effort between the St. Charles Lwanga Center, which provides Catholic spiritual and leadership development primarily for the African-American community, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Earlier this month, 23 teens and their chaperones from St. Louis traveled to Camden and Canton, Miss., where they joined more than 20 other teens and adults there for a weekend of fellowship and service work.

The groups formed a relationship when teens from Sacred Heart Parish in Camden made a visit to St. Louis last winter.

St. Louis teens on the trip were from St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock,” St. Nicholas, Sts. Teresa and Bridget and St. Augustine parishes in North St. Louis.

Corliss Cox, senior youth ministry coordinator at Lwanga Center, said it was an “eye-opening, life-changing experience for the teens.” Mississippi, she added, ranks very low in quality education, housing, economics, and employment.

Among the activities planned during the week was a community service project at Holy Child Jesus in Canton, the parish that Sister Thea Bowman once attended and later taught there.

Cox noted that the enrollment at the parish school has dwindled to fewer than 100 students and is struggling to survive and maintain quality Catholic education for the students in Canton.

In preparation for an upcoming open house, the teens assisted with the beautification of the grounds by pulling weeds and planting flowers and plants, restriped the parking lot and set up seating in the gym for a presentation to perspective students and parents.

“The group was personally commended by the principal for being teenagers who would voluntarily come to Mississippi in June, to do community service in the heat at 9 a.m. in a place they did not know,” said Cox. “What made this even more special was (that) the teens viewed this as fun and another opportunity to interact with the youth of Camden.”

Cox said the St. Louis teens noticed a difference in the way of life for people in Mississippi.

Some of their observations and questions included, “Life in Camden seems hard.” “What do they do with their spare time in such a rural area?” and “They don’t have enough and deserve better.”

“In spite of the obstacles seen by the youth from St. Louis, they also observed the youth in Camden exhibited a stronger sense of faith and are more serious about the Church and God,” said Cox. “(They) were very welcoming and generous to us.”

In addition to the service project at Holy Child Jesus Parish, the teens visited a water park and went horseback riding at Sacred Heart Parish in Camden.

The trip, said Cox, also was coordinated through the collaboration of the Lwanga Center, Sister of St. Joseph Donna Gunn and the staff at Sacred Heart Parish in Camden and Sisters of St. Joseph Marianne Keena and Pat Bober in St. Louis.

Originally formed in 2007, Fallible Human Beings focuses on seeking ways to live out their call as disciples of Christ. The group meets for regular activities, including group sessions, field trips, community service projects and personal experiences.

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