Mission Evansville Focuses On People, Not Numbers
Editor’s note – Maria Sermersheim participated in Mission Evansville this year. Following is her first-person report on the experience.
According to the numbers, close to 100 people were involved in the third Mission Evansville, which occurred June 17-20. Our seven work crews served 11 locations, generating more than 1,000 service hours for at least 500 children, 80 homeless families, seven babies and the cultivation of 67,000 pounds of quality produce. But the numbers were not the focus of Mission Evansville—the people were.
We volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul’s Food Pantry and Thrift Store, the Tri-State Food Bank, Ozanam Family Shelter, House of Bread and Peace, the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, the Dream Center, Seton Harvest, University Nursing, the Evansville Christian Life Center, and Life Choices Maternity & Youth Home. Our work ranged from weeding and building fences to making blankets for babies and sleeping mats for the homeless.
I worked at the Dream Center, cleaning their facilities and caring for the children. My heart is both torn to shreds and full of hope for these kids. They thirst for a loving, listening ear, and it didn’t take long to bond with them. The Dream Center provides a fantastic program that keeps them interested in school, hobbies and God. I know I cannot leave these kids behind as dates on my calendar; I will return soon because Mission Evansville week has motivated me to act.
This year was my first Mission Evansville, and I expected the week to consist only of service and games. Instead, it also fostered rich spiritual growth and provided opportunities to take action as a result. We listened to various speakers from our community, made bags of food to distribute to the homeless, participated in night prayer from the Divine Office, celebrated Mass with Bishop Siegel on June 18, reflected on the theme of humility and adored the Eucharist.
Our base at the Sarto Retreat Center was incredibly conducive to the holistic enrichment of the experience; our single rooms provided the space for individual reflection and peace, the chapel was beautiful, the dinners were delicious (thanks to all the volunteers who served us!), and the fields were perfect for our paint and water balloon fight. Josh Goodman, an excellent musician from Chicago, joined us and truly elevated the tone of the entire mission. You can find him online at www.joshgoodman.band.
Diocese of Evansville Seminarian Joe Paul Hayden has a particular love for Mission Evansville. He said it has “a neat dynamic of bringing the diocese together…with a focal point on service.” Many others agreed, saying they felt that participants “grew closer and became a family … you say hi and immediately become friends.” This camaraderie was not limited to our diocesan community.
At the closing program, some representatives from the agencies we served spoke about the impact we made, describing our work crews as “amazing representatives of Christ,” and saying we “set the curve for future volunteers.” They explained that all these organizations collaborate, and we boosted the entire local economy of service by our work.
I call that Mission accomplished.