When I was rector of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Burlington, Spectrum Youth and Family Services approached me about the possibility of opening a warming shelter for youth ages 18-24, which did open in the parish hall. With the permission of the bishop, the shelter was open for four winters.

Spectrum provided the staffing and all the materials. Cathedral donors, other volunteers, and I provided food.

During that time, I had the opportunity to meet many young men and women and provide pastoral care for them.

One of them, Caleb Copley, who had been a resident at the shelter, asked me if I could teach him how to drive. He had his driver’s permit but didn’t have his license.

And so, driving lessons began in downtown Burlington and the surrounding area. Caleb finished his summer lessons with me, passed his driving test and obtained his license. He took a job for several months with FedEx out of South Burlington and continued on to graduate from the ProDriver Training School in Milton where he learned how to drive trucks. He then successfully passed another test to obtain his commercial driver’s license for operating large vehicles and trucks.

Caleb moved out west where he was hired by a Washington-based trucking company.  Currently he is a long-distance truck driver. He has driven all over California, Texas, Washington State, the Dakotas, Tennessee and elsewhere. Asked about his experience as a truck driver, he said, “I love it. I can live in my truck, see the country and make lots of money.” And he does.

Caleb calls me every few weeks to check in. I am always happy to hear from him, and I am very proud of him. Sometimes the time difference can be an issue, but I always make myself available to him — even if it’s late at night. Truck driving can be a lonely profession with so many long hours on the road, but Caleb is enjoying it and has seen more of the U.S. than I ever have.

What began as a simple request to teach a young man how to drive has turned into a successful career for him. While this experience with Caleb has shown many tangible fruits, I pray every day that the seeds planted in the hearts of the youth at the St. Joseph-Spectrum Warming Shelter, may continue to blossom.

In the meantime, let’s keep on truckin’.

—Father Harlow is pastor of Corpus Christi Parish based in St. Johnsbury.

Editor’s note: Caleb was featured in a Vermont Catholic article on Dec. 30, 2019.

—Originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.