By Jeff Miller
Special to The Texas Catholic
Last summer’s initial “Hands from Home” youth service week that involved seven parishes across the Diocese of Dallas was meant to be a replacement for out-of-town summer mission trips that were cancelled a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. With pandemic-related restrictions eased this summer, the second iteration of the project, held July 5-9 across 11 parishes, was able to expand beyond home activities.
Elizabeth Seidemann, parish catechetical leader at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Oak Cliff, squinted as she looked on a cloudless morning across Holy Redeemer Cemetery in nearby DeSoto to see almost a dozen parish youth and some of their relatives cleaning headstones.
“I love just getting to see that we’re really making a difference,” Seidemann said, “and seeing all the kids and them using their gifts to help someone else in need.”
The group included Michael Rangel III, who just graduated from the parish school, and his mother, Leticia.
“I know my grandparents are here, and I would be very grateful if somebody came to do this for them,” Leticia said. “To do this, especially for those who don’t have visitors often, makes it even more fulfilling for us to be able to do this. I can just imagine somebody coming here and seeing clean headstones and thinking somebody cared enough to come out and do this.”
This July’s effort was led by Devyn Buschow, the director of youth and young adult ministry at Holy Spirit in Duncanville. Buschow was among last year’s organizers who worked with diocesan staff to fill what they saw as a void during the pandemic-dominated summer. The focus of the effort is performing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
This year, about 100 youth and their relatives performed 242 service projects, many of the projects still done at home. St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Holy Spirit were joined by St. Patrick in Dallas, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, St. Jude and Our Lady of Angels in Allen, St. Joseph in Richardson, St. Anthony in Wylie, Our Lady of the Lake in Rockwall, St. Joseph in Waxahachie and St. Mary’s in Sherman.
“We’re so excited that we had such a wonderful ‘Hands from Home’ event for a second year in a row,” said Buschow, whose parish’s week included painting parking stripes in the church lot. “Our goal is for young people and their families to recognize how easy and how important it is to incorporate service in their lives.”
Mariana and Natalie Lozano, 15-year-old twins who are members of the youth ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, performed the most projects by an individual or family – 36. Their mother, Lynn, said the bulk of their activity was preparing meals for other families. “Which we do a lot,” Lynn said. “It’s not just this past week.”
Seidemann’s group from St. Elizabeth of Hungary completed 108 projects, most for a parish. That included visiting residents of a Catholic senior living home and listening to the parish’s seminarian this summer, Joseph Font, speak about the homeless ministry at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving.
The parish’s efforts also included Ozandro Rios, 15, and Idaliz Rios, 13, cleaning a beach since their family spent the week at South Padre Island. If a quid pro quo was required for participation while on vacation, their mother, Delia, promised a search for exotic shells.
“Hands from Home” will informally continue for the rest of the summer with a goal of 500 service projects completed.
“I hope this whole week inspires others to serve,” Seidemann said.