Sheila Grove

ERIE — “We want to let kids know that they are not alone in wanting to make a difference in the world,’ says Patrice Swick, director of the Office of Social Justice and Life. “We will give them an opportunity to learn how to bring about the change they want to see.”

        To that end, she and Jillian Zaczyk, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, will introduce a new service-learning program for high school students in November. 

        Called Love thy neighbor: Make a difference at home, it is a five-day COVID-friendly experience for high school students designed to provide education, service opportunities and connection with local organizations living out Jesus’ call to love one another. 

        Participants will be asked to commit two flexible hours each day from Sunday, Nov.15 through Thursday, Nov.19. The first hour, consisting of a Zoom-get together during which Swick and Zaczyk, along with community partners from service organizations in the diocese, will provide information about service, charity and Catholic Social Teaching in the areas of food security, human trafficking and racial equality. Students will be asked to spend a second hour each day in individual or group prayer, discussion and learning about the topic presented. 

        On the fifth day, members of the group will be encouraged to discern their personal call to service, develop a plan for engagement and commit to carrying it out. 

        Many teens perform community service hours as part of their school or parish curricula. Whether they choose to apply the hours of service they plan during this program will be determined by their own preference and the expectations of their organization.

        Zaczyk reflected, “There is a disparity of connections and community for young people who want to engage in purposeful activity. We hope that this program with provide opportunities that are mutually beneficial for teens and service providers to learn, cooperate and carry out the Catholic mission of sharing Jesus’ love and recognizing him in our neighbor.”

       Editor's note: Click the link for more information or to register for Love thy neighbor: Make a difference at home, another collaborative effort of the Office of Social Justice and Life, part of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie, and the Office of Youth and Adult Ministry of the Faith Formation Office.