By Angela E. Pometto, Special to The Catholic Virginian
When the Rich Young Man approaches Jesus to ask what he must do to enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus first responds that he must keep the commandments. The Rich Young Man presses Jesus further, declaring he has kept the commandments since he was young. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’” (Mark 10:21).
More than 200 youth and adults from the Diocese of Richmond responded to this call June 24-30 by participating in the 2017 Diocesan Work Camp held in Wise, Va. Participants gave time, money, and physical strength to help those in need in the second poorest county in Virginia.
Divided into crews of 6-7 people, crews were assigned to a work site throughout the week. The 18 sites provided a range of various projects to help local residents. The campers painted, caulked bathtubs, replaced windows, repaired and built porches, and installed new floors. The camp also built four wheelchair ramps for residents, including one that was 50-feet long and included a turn.
Two of the projects aided homes in an area of Appalachia called Roda, a coal camp in the 1930s and 40s, whose population of 1,500 residents has shrunk to about 40. The campers installed insulation and dry wall to these older homes to help the residents stay warm in the winter.
Typically only offered for high school-aged participants, this year’s Work Camp also hosted three members of the Verso L‘Alto program, sponsored by the Office for Social Ministry. This crew helped with various home projects for Troy, a quadriplegic, who needed more space in his home to maneuver his wheel chair.
In addition to service, participants have a chance to encounter Jesus through sacraments and prayer. Daily Work Camp began with the celebration of Mass in Cantrell Hall on the campus of the University of Virginia at Wise. On Tuesday evening, campers were joined by 14 priests who offered the sacrament of confession during a holy hour.
Each evening, the campers gathered for a program which included goofy games, like “Nuzzle Whaa!” and “Will it Smoothie?” along with several witness talks. Jessica McCoy, coordinator of faith formation for Good Shepherd in Lebanon, Saint Mary in Coeburn, and Saint Therese in Saint Paul, shared her experience living her Catholic faith in a rural area. Keynote speaker Meg Hunter-Kilmer spoke on this year’s theme, “Fully Alive,” focusing on the story of the Rich Young Man who came to Christ seeking a full life. Meg’s love for Scripture came through every talk along with stories of several lesser-known saints including Saint Peter Kibe and Saint Hyacintha Mariscotti.
The Rich Young Man walked away sad from his encounter with Jesus. The Work Camp participants walked away from this experience physically exhausted but spiritually uplifted and inspired. If they were sad it was to say good bye to their new friends, their residents, and a strong Christian community formed through the week.