On Fridays of Lent, Pray Tell highlights stories of individuals and organizations which inspire and challenge us by their self-giving service to others.
When he was in seminary – this was in 2005 – Gale Hammerschmidt was trying to convince parents to let their children to go on a service trip to another country.
One of the dads said, “These service trips are expensive. Why should we send our children to these far-off places when there are poor people right in our own community who need help?”
Before long, based on just that dad’s question, “Prayer and Action” was born.
Young people in the diocese of Salina, Kansas spend five days sleeping in school gyms and classroom floors. They serve elderly and needy people by painting houses, cleaning up yards, doing minor repairs, working at food kitchens, and performing other community service. What started as a one-week program is now seven weeks of such service opportunities, with one of the weeks especially for college students.
These weeks of prayer and service are facilitated by teams of seminarians and young adults.
The day begins early, with Rosary at 7:30 am and Mass at 8:00 am. Collatio each evening is an hour and a quarter of “playing, worshiping, and growing together in Jesus Christ.” The day ends with Night Prayer at 10:00 pm.
The T-shirts that student participants wear quote the words of Mother Teresa:
“I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people. And find out about your next door neighbor – Do you know who they are?”
Fr. Hammerschmidt, who was ordained in 2012, has handed the summer program over to other seminarians, while he has become more involved in Hispanic ministry in the Salina diocese. He is convinced that doing ministry and service during the seminar is a great opportunity, in the midst of their academic studies, for seminarians.
Prayer and Action is a great experience, for leaders and youth alike. “I never knew being holy could be so much fun!”, as one young participant said.