By Brenna Wiegand
980 S. Main St.; P.O. Box 790
Mount Angel, OR 97362
Ways to Support FBYC
Encourage group bookings
Volunteer time and skills
Join board of directors
Sponsor an event
They came; they saw; they got to work.
As a summer service project and retreat, 50 high school students from the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle spent the week of July 12 on a service retreat, based at Fr. Bernard Youth Center in Mount Angel.
Passers-by may have seen them grooming the yard of the Henrietta Saalfeld home recently donated as a park. Or at the Esch property, which now houses residents of Mount Angel Developmental Programs. They stayed nights at St. Joseph Shelter, doing yard work and sorting donated goods.
They leant a hand at the Habitat for Humanity Store and at the Benedictine Monastery, where they washed the nuns’ cars. They visited residents of the nursing center and took on eradication of Scotch broom at Silver Falls State Park.
And they tore out old carpet in the youth center basement, making it ready for future tenants.
Nicole Morris, FBYC’s retreat coordinator, arranged the kids’ meals, accommodations and coordinated their job sites. She also enlisted Fr. William Hammelman from St. Paul’s in Silverton and Fr. Philip Waibel of St. Mary’s to provide their spiritual needs.
“It’s so cool to see high school kids give up a whole week of their summer in order to serve when there are so many other things they could be doing,” Morris said.
In its fifth year, the Fr. Bernard Youth Center is a retreat facility for young people (14-38), but helps fund its programs by accommodating other groups.
It is an independent lay ministry with 6,000 feet of spaces and amenities including a commercial kitchen, projection and other equipment, a chapel and expansive grounds with a covered area and outdoor stage.
The brainchild of Fr. Bernard Sander (1918-2008), it was designed as a place where those who are not clergy could carry out the work of the church.
Those who came to Fr. Bernard for spiritual guidance were encouraged to follow their true calling and passion. Bringing Fr. Bernard-style empowerment to youth is the aim of FBYC, discovering God’s calling for their lives.
Malia Makahanalia, a coordinator for Youth Summer Mission says young people have something in their hearts crying out for more. “I believe, by the grace of God, that YSM helps to fulfill that want through an efficient combination of work and prayer.”
Don Robison, director of the center, considers it the most challenging and rewarding job he’s ever had. He sees how interacting with disabled people raises young people’s awareness of and appreciation for these individuals. He sees the forming of intergenerational bonds and the satisfaction on young faces after putting in a hard day’s work in service to others. He sees them mature and their faith blossom.
He saw Silverton High School student Kent Kuenzi show up when it came time for his senior project and carry out a multidimensional undertaking. The result: a water feature composed of a creek and two waterfalls, accented with plants.
“When we get away from daily life and all its distractions and quiet our hearts and minds and listen to what God is trying to tell us … to really think about how our lives are going,” Robison said. “We learn to take responsibility for our own lives.”
Smiles pervade the faces of the dusty, sweaty Youth Summer Mission group from Western Washington.
“I thought this would be a good opportunity to come together and go serve a community,” said Luke Park, 15, from Fife. “But you can serve every day. Just smiling at your neighbor or helping somebody cross the street is an act of community service.”
Samantha Foopiano of Tacoma jokingly likened the experience to a “laid back boot camp.” “I’ve gained confidence, especially in the area of leadership,” the 16-year-old reflected. “I think YSM is a good experience for anybody who feels very lost when it comes to faith – or somebody who’s just really lazy.”