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29 June 2008

A Great Time in Baltimore...

I'm back from a week-long work camp in Baltimore and despite the extreme lack of sleep I'm completely awake and alive!  Working with St. William of York, Catonsville/Baltimore is always a highlight for me, but this week went beyond anything I expected it to be.  

The high schoolers inspired me, made me laugh until I cried and gave me great hope.  The adult staff and chaperons reminded me what it is to be a true servant of others and provided me with models of what those who work with youth are supposed to be.  The indefatigable Sr. Kitty once again showed me that age is only a number and that God deals well with those who give themselves to the poor completely.  What a blessed, wonderful week!

A brief rundown of the work of the week ... 

Sunday

We all arrived on Sunday.  About 30 high school students met at the parish and went over the schedule for the week.  I hadn't seen a few of the kids since last year so it was wonderful to catch up on all that had happened in their crazy high school lives.  Of course, I had more than my fair share of laughs this night.  We attempted to get a good night's sleep to be ready to work in the morning.

Monday

We began work in Southwest Baltimore.  The group split into several teams.  Some youth cleaned Sr. Kitty's backyard, others pulled weeds on Poppleton and Hollins Street.  Still others worked to clean up and create a new garden environment at St. Peter's Adult Learning Center.  St. Peter's is a tremendous place where developmentally disabled adults are able to learn job and life skills and receive the support that they need.  Many hands indeed made light work as we were able to knock out more work than anyone expected.

Tuesday

Tuesday was much warmer, but we pressed on.  A large part of the group worked to finish the wonderful project that we started at St. Peter's.  We spread large amounts of both pine bark and red mulch and planted flowers.  Once the weeds were pulled, the yard looked magnificent!  All who saw the yard were amazed.  

Wednesday

For several years Southwest Visions has maintained an empty lot at the corner of Pratt and Mount Streets in SW Baltimore.  They plan to build 19 townhouses there to be rented or sold to the lower and middle class workers in Baltimore City. However, the recent mortgage and foreclosure crisis has seriously jeopardized the project.  We spent the entire morning cleaning the lot -- mowing, weedwhacking, garbage picking and weed pulling.  Sr. Kitty pulled up at 11 am and said to no one in particular: "It's clean already ... a miracle!"

Thursday

Our final day working with Sr. Kitty found us down one of the alleys of SW Baltimore.  We worked on a pond that is maintained by private citizens on city property.  We dredged the pond and worked to recreate one wall of the pond that had begun to fall into the water.  Meanwhile, others in our group worked to pull weeds and pick up trash from the surrounding area.  

On Thursday evening we gathered for mass together.  Before the final blessing, Fr. Marty called me forward and prayed over me as everyone else in the church joined in.  The great outpouring of prayer, I'm embarrassed to say, brought me to tears.  What an extraordinary bunch of people! 

Friday

Our last day together kept us busy as well!  The boiler at St. William's elementary school is being replaced and fifty years of junk stood between the engineers and the old boilers.  The young men in our group attacked the project with gusto while the wonderful young ladies cleaned up the mess that 30 teens had created!  In the afternoon we walked through Daniels State Park.  I managed to walk through a nest of yellow jackets but ran away with only one sting.  

More thoughts on BASE Camp and my chance meeting with "Victor" later today...


peace,
matt

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