Defending the most vulnerable among us is one of the core tenants of the Catholic faith. Parishes throughout Vermont instill in young people this Christian virtue through service throughout the year, but particularly during this season of giving.

Young people from Newport and Derby Line participate every year in a Thanksgiving basket delivery to families in need in the Mater Dei Parish region. Young people from Ludlow recently decorated bibs and made cards for the Grace House in New Hampshire. In a demonstration of caring for mothers and newborns, they also collected diapers, clothing and other items for a baby shower. Teens from St. Albans will once again be helping with “Operation Happiness,” an annual event that serves families in need in Franklin County through Christmas gifts and food.

The young people from Vermont’s Catholic schools participate in a number of service opportunities throughout the year, helping local agencies, sponsoring clothing and food drives and visiting the elderly. Some specific examples from Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland include working and supporting the local Dismas House through the Corporal Works of Mercy – visiting the imprisoned and feeding the hungry. They also help St. Peter Parish collect Thanksgiving baskets for families in need and help with the food shelf at St. Peter’s. Students at Mount St. Joseph also sign and send condolence cards to every family that buries loved ones from St. Peter Parish.

Teens from St. Peter Parish in Vergennes and St. Ambrose Parish in Bristol put together a monthly meal for homebound parishioners. Teens in White River Junction at St. Anthony Church host Giving Sunday. Religious education students will make 170 Christmas ornaments and cards for the Norwich/Hartford Holiday Baskets given to people in need. They also write Christmas cards to children at Kurn Hattin Homes in Westminster; the young people in St. Johnsbury do this too. Youth from St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center and St. Mary Church in Cambridge give Christmas food and fruit baskets to families in need in the parish and wider community. The elementary grades decorate boxes to collect food for several weeks during the offertory at Mass and pack the food boxes and make fruit baskets for distribution to each family in need.

Every fall Holy Family/St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction sponsors a large “Serve Our Neighbor Day,” fanning out through the Essex area serving those in need. Many young people participate in this day of service.

Recently the youth group at St. Ann Church in Milton made a meal for A New Place, and teens from Bennington have done numerous acts of service for those in need. Teens also participated in advocacy for the unborn at rallies in Montpelier and by speaking up for the unborn in front of the legislators at the Statehouse.

This past summer a large group of teens did service throughout Chittenden County as part of the Shine Mission – visiting the elderly, serving at soup kitchens, cleaning cemeteries and volunteering wherever there was a need.

These are just some of the ways that our teens have shown the love of Christ to the most vulnerable here in Vermont.

Please pray for our young people that they will continue to be a light to all those in need both now and in the years to come.

—Bill Gavin is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Burlington.

—Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.