Author Archives: John Lilly

    Teens Tackle Poverty Close To Home

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    Story originally published on Arlington Connection by Shirley Ruhe.

    Full Member Don Smaltz with his WorkCamp crew on site in Fredericksburg, VA.

    Rory Cameron from Arlington took off with a fleet of mini vans on June 24 where he was headed for a week of WorkCamp with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Lily McIntire changed into her white shirt with the blue motto for this year “I Will Love” stamped on the back. She headed for the prayer circle before taking off on Sunday afternoon.

    WorkCamp began 29 years ago with 18 teens in one parish. In 2017 there were 820 teens and another 400 adults working on 190 projects to make homes warmer, safer and drier for those in need. Kevin Bohli, director of the Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Youth Ministry, says the projects are always within the boundaries of the diocese, which includes 21 counties and seven cities in central and northern Virginia.

    “We want our teens to understand you don’t have to travel a long distance to find poverty or to help those in need. Service begins right here at home,” Bohli said.

    Cameron worked this year in a trailer park to build a new deck with a wheelchair ramp for an elderly woman who had trouble getting out. The first day they took out several big bushes and “our leader had us save all of the flowers and move them.” The next day they started building the deck. “Measuring was critical in building the framing for the deck so when the ramp is connected it would fit right,” he said.

    Cameron says the teenagers get tool training before they participate in WorkCamp. “Each parish has its own individual tool training. It is a basic course — hammer, drill, nails.” But he says his dad has had him do projects for years so he is pretty good at building. “But some kids don’t know anything.”

    Carolina Magro, from Alexandria, says she also did tool training. I could use a hammer but I’m not comfortable with power tools.

    “We had a contractor watching us to supervise our projects step by step.” Cameron said, “They were very big on safety — always wear safety glasses, gloves, drink excessive amounts of water.”

    McIntire says the first step was always to walk around the work site to spot any potential hazards like power lines or unlevel grounds.

    Magro, in her second year as a volunteer, says this year she had lots of small projects for a deaf couple including installation of new storm doors, refurbishing the garden, fixing the railing and the outdoor steps. Her project last year had been the floor for a playroom for mothers with young children. She says the women and children were living in a temporary situation because they were homeless or in a bad place. Magro says she had heard a lot about WorkCamp and her sister had done it. “It’s relational ministry and rewarding helping her and knowing her life changed.”

    McIntire says this is her third year at WorkCamp. “The first year I didn’t know what I was doing but all the kids in the parish do WorkCamp.” She estimates they had 40-50 teenagers this year from her parish. “It is important to make lasting friendships, not just superficial. I got close with the crew. Every year I would go in with the mindset that it wouldn’t be as fun as the last year so you work harder, but I had an amazing experience.”

    Cameron says it was a joke in his family that his mom was going to make him go the first year and then he could go back if he liked. This is his third year; all three years he has been assigned to decking projects. “I like construction. It’s very fun and I like helping people.” He says the residents would come out and talk to them about once a day. “She had limited mobility but she seemed very thrilled with us.”

    McIntyre says that each day was pretty much routine starting with mass at 7 a.m. Emily Madden, a 4th year camper from Alexandria, said, “The bathroom lines are pretty long but that’s just a little sacrifice you do for the good feeling you have.” This is followed by breakfast. Cameron says they had breakfast each day with teenagers they knew but during the workday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. they were assigned to a group of teenagers from a different parish. “They like to have you get to know each other.”

    On the way to the site each day there was a “devo,” a teen devotional leader who led the group in prayers during the car ride and lunch. Madden says they would have a discussion about what they were going to do that day, “tie in the Catholic aspect, make sure we were doing the work for the right reason.”

    Teresa Nguyen says everyone in the crew had a role. Hers was to be the “dynamo” to keep up everyone’s spirits.

    After they arrived at Madden’s site she says it was measuring space for the gutters and chop sawing the pieces until the lunch break — peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, snack and drink every day. Then back to work until 4 p.m. followed by a shower. Nguyen said, “They wouldn’t let you into dinner unless you had a shower. I can understand. It got pretty hot.” After dinner there was a program with a speaker or musical performance “and one night I remember we had ice cream,” Nguyen added.

    Madden said, “The program was one of my favorite things with lots of music. You got to be with your parish people and your new friends.” Madden says this is her 4th year of WorkCamp where she helped build a wheelchair ramp. “It was somewhere close to King’s Dominion. It was kind of funny, we passed King’s Dominion every day going to the site and coming back.” Next year Madden hopes to return to WorkCamp as part of the home base crew and when she is old enough as an adult leader.

    Nguyen, also in her 4th year of WorkCamp, says last year she helped repair a wheelchair ramp “that had boards poking out and nails everywhere” so that the resident’s grandson could safely get out of the house.” On the last day the residents can come together with the crews and they pass around the microphone. “What really touched my heart was my resident came with her two grandchildren and said they were no longer trapped inside the four walls of their house and her little granddaughter could now play outside on the deck without her having to worry and her grandson could get his wheelchair outside.” Nguyen added, “We think they are letting us come inside their house and helping them, but they are really helping me.”

    Bohli says he attended WorkCamp as a volunteer contractor in 1995. “The experience had such a strong impact on me that I left my position as a mechanical engineer for the government in 1997 and began to do youth ministry.” In 2001 he took over the diocesan office of Youth Ministry “and began running the very camp that had such a strong impact on my life.”

    Beauty and the Beast helps teens and young adults “break the spell of self-interest”

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    Photos by Tom Kise

    Upper Room Theatre Ministry, directed by Full Member Rob Tessier, finished it’s 16th performance this summer with the production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The core mission of URTM is to use the arts to reach out to a wider community – both on stage, back stage, and to the audience – beyond just those who are Catholic. Through live, uplifting, performances, they bring God to others. The annual show the ministry puts on helps support the youth ministry program at All Saints. The funds raised from the show allow over 60 teens to attend mission trips next year to care for the poorest of the poor.

    Bishop Burbidge event stopped by to show his support for the cast and crew during Friday night’s performance! He prayed with the entire cast before they took to the stage.

    Rob said it best in the Director’s Note in the show program:

    All humans are created good at our very core. The invisible reality of our soul is the greatest and purest BEAUTY that exists. However, our own busyness, attraction to things, and desire for comfort can cloud that beauty with a BEAST-like selfishness.

    In this production, we see individuals with a greater external status treating those who are different or carry less status in a manner that rejects their human dignity. For the young prince and his staff, this results in an “imprisonment” for a period that allows them to see their error. Meanwhile, those in Belle’s village who originally reject her come to discover a woman with tremendous courage, compassion, and love.

    When we greet others with a smile, express our concern for those around us, and adopt an attitude of gratitude, we help break the spell of self-interest that so often plagues us.

    It’s been a gift to work on this production. I believe there are many lessons here, but most importantly is that we should treat every individual with deep respect recognizing the true beauty of the human soul present, no matter how cluttered it might appear on the outside.


    DBC Helps Teens Avoid Gangs

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    Video by NBC Washington


    Bishop Burbidge Visits Youth Apostles

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    For pictures from the evening, click here.

    Bishop Michael Burbidge, the newly installed Bishop of the Diocese of Arlington, visited Youth Apostles on Tuesday, March 21. He celebrated Mass and had dinner with our community.

    After dinner, he joined us for a brief presentation by Mike Paquette, Fr. Tom, and Rob Tessier on the history, mission, and vision of Youth Apostles. Mike talked about our extensive candidate formation program and the thrust of our community to do youth ministry. As a priest in the Diocese, Fr. Tom told the Bishop how important it is to have consecrated clerics in community with single and married men. Rob spoke on his long career in youth ministry.

    To conclude the evening, Bishop Burbidge asked the men present what the greatest needs of the youth are today and how we can meet those needs. The overall consensus was the plethora of distractions and options, and how it’s hard to compete for attention in the Northern Virginia area. Bishop commended us on our missionary zeal and apostolic thrust to serve the young people in the Diocese.

    We were blessed to have the Bishop join us and be an active member of our special meeting with him that night. We continue to keep him in prayer as he begins his new ministry in our Diocese!

    Fr. Ramon Interviewed by WUSA9

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    Fr. Ramon was interviewed by WUSA9 on his work at the Don Bosco Center.

    Watch here


    Rob Tessier and Kevin Bohli Interviewed Ahead of March for Life

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    Rob Tessier, Director of Youth Ministry at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, VA, and Kevin Bohli, Director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Arlington, were interviewed by NBC Washington ahead of the March for Life. Watch their incredible witness to this great event, and how important it is to build a culture of life among our young people!

    Youth Apostles Pro-life Poster Contest Biggest Ever, Winners Announced

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    The winners in the 18th annual Youth Apostles Prolife Poster Contest have been selected! The theme was “Time to Respect Life.”

    Thanks to all the participants, schools and youth ministries that took part.

    There were 626 entries, the highest number of entries in any Youth Apostles Pro-life Poster Contest ever.

    Participants came from the following schools: Paul VI High School, Bishop D.J. O’Connell High School, Angelus Academy, Holy Cross Academy, Holy Spirit School, Our Lady of Good Counsel School, St. Agnes School, St. Francis of Assisi School, St. James School, St. John Academy, St. Joseph School, and St. Theresa School. Members of Our Lady of Hope Youth Group participated, as well.

    The entries evinced not only creativity and artistic talent, but also understanding and appreciation of prolife values.

    The first place winning entries are attached so they can be printed and used during the March for Life.

    The winners are as follows:



    First Place: Margaret Mitchell, Paul VI High School

    Second Place: Shuyler Workmaster, Bishop D.J. O’Connell High School

    Third Place: Jennifer Marty, Paul VI High School


    Honorable Mention:

    Nicole Franchi, Paul VI High School

    Katarina George’s, Paul VI High School

    Emma Hitchcock, Paul VI High School

    Eunah Lee, Paul VI High School

    Christina Navarro, Paul VI High School

    Victoria Rodriguez, Paul VI High School

    Michelle Email, Paul VI High School

    Gloria Whitfield, Paul VI High School



    First Place: Julia Kupczak, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Second Place: Jasmine Moalem, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Third Place: Darby Galbraith, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Honorable Mention:

    Caroline Cristofaro, Our Lady of Hope Youth Group

    Katie Evans, St. Joesph School

    Cara Grimm, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Ella Kravitz, Our Lady of Good Counsel School

    Charlie Lamb, Holy Spirit School

    Lynn Loftus, St. Agnes Catholic School

    Nick Villazon, St. Francis of Assisi School



    Stay focused on Christmas!

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    Reflection provided by Fr. Jack Peterson

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    Christmas Day is celebrated for eight days in the Church. We call it the Octave of Christmas.  It ends on January 1 with the feast of the Mary, the Mother of God.

    It is very easy to be distracted during Christmas by a flurry of activities such as enjoyable gatherings with family and friends, returning gifts to the Mall and some extra time for rest. While these are good things, time for prayer easily gets bumped out of our day. I want to encourage you to take time out to pray and reflect upon the great mystery of Christmas this week. Stop by a church or chapel and enjoy some quiet time of prayer in imitation of the Blessed Mother, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2: 19).

    Here are a few Scripture passages and questions that might be helpful to you.

    “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger…” (Lk 2: 7).

    • Can you imagine Mary’s first hug of the Christ-child?

    “Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over the flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them…” (Lk 2: 8-9).

    • Why did the Angel appear to shepherds?
    • Jacob, Moses and David were shepherds…
    • Jesus would proclaim, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
    • The lowly are often open to God’s presence and action in this world.
    • They teach us how to worship the Christ child with deep, humble faith.

    “…laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2: 7)

    • Did the animals in the stable sense something unusual?
    • You know how pets can sense when we are sick or in morning?
    • Did they grasp that something unusual was going on in their stable?

    “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2: 10-11).

    • How do I allow the beauty of this mystery to bring “great joy” into my life?

    Vocations Awareness Day

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    Jonathan Mundell and two Women’s Youth Apostles, Tiffany Lambert and Krysti Patient, represented the Youth Apostles community and the Women Youth Apostles community at Vocations Awareness Day this past Friday. The Religious Vocations Awareness Day Fair held in Finnegan Fieldhouse at Franciscan University of Steubenville welcomed and brought together representatives from nearly 100 different religious orders and dioceses from around the country (and world!)! Students of Franciscan University, and anyone else who was wondering if God could be calling him or her to religious life or the priesthood, were invited to come and learn more.

    Fr. Jack in Rome!

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    Fr. Jack recently had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. After Mass, he ran into Fr. Steve Shafran, SDB. He is the new provincial minister of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He invited Fr. Jack to be the main celebrant of the Mass for their school, Christo Rey, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of St. John Bosco’s death.
    In addition, Fr. Jack shares his thoughts on St. John the Baptist while in France in his latest video!

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