It takes a lot to intimidate young members of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Bourbonnais. They walk on houses installing roofing shingles, use power tools with the best of them, and apply sheets of vinyl siding like pros.
In January, a group of 21 college students accompanied by four adults, traveled to New Orleans to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. It was the eighth time the parish sent volunteers to work with the nonprofit agency that builds homes for low income families.
“It’s so empowering,” says Patty Bailey, youth minister at Maternity BVM Parish. “We believe so strongly in the whole philosophy of working along side of homeowners to build their new homes. Plus, our kids are learning such valuable skills.”
They worked next to Cheryl, a single mother of two teens, who had lost her home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and still had no permanent roof over her head. She told the students of being airlifted by helicopter to the Super Dome in New Orleans, where she and her children, along with her sister and mother, lived as refugees for the first days.
The students worked as a construction crew, having been assigned to a house that already had been framed — but not sided — and still needed a roof and other finishing touches, including a front porch and deck in the back.
“We’ve done this so many times, that they knew our kids weren’t afraid to climb on top of houses,” Bailey said. “Another crew came in after us to do some of the painting.”
Bailey points to such hands-on projects that keep so many of the young people committed to service and ministry. At last count, more than 650 teens — including 180 college students — remain actively involved in the parish.