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.”

    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


    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


    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!

    Support James Armstrong’s Year of Missionary Service!

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    File_000 (1)James Armstrong has chosen to surrender a year of his life to the Lord in the service of young people. Having recently graduated from the University of South Carolina, he discerned a call from God to dedicate a whole year to helping young people encounter the merciful love of Christ.

    James will be assisting Rob Tessier, the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at All Saints, at the largest parish in the state of Virginia. Most fundamentally, he will be building relationships with teens and helping them come to know Christ. This process will include training in the art of reaching out and actively bringing the love of Christ to young people, assisting in the planning and execution of middle school youth group events and conducting weekend retreats for high school and junior high students. He has already participated in a week-long summer work camp and served as a co-moderator of the boys Catholic Life Community.

    Youth Apostles sponsors the Year of Missionary Service to Youth. He will live in their center in McLean with 15 other men where he will build a strong prayer life, celebrate the sacraments regularly, cook and share meals, and receive a strong formation in the Christian life.

    Please consider donating to help cover the costs of this Year of Missionary Service. Any amount you can give, large or small, makes a difference! Thank you for your generosity.

    Click here to support James

    Tiffany Lambert Makes One Year Consecrated Commitment in Women Youth Apostles

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    On Monday, August 16 at the Sacred Heart Chapel on Marymount’s campus, Tiffany Lambert made a One Year Consecrated Commitment in Women Youth Apostles. We are thankful for her yes to community and to the youth. Please continue to keep her in your prayers!

    “Into the Woods” receives rave review from DC Metro Theater Arts

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    “Once Upon a time, in the city of Manassas, there was a theatre group that was in their 15th year of producing Broadway quality musicals. Every summer a group of talented performers gather to rehearse a visually stunning and musically wonderful show. And this year was no exception. Fresh off their hit from last year’s performance of Peter Pan, Upper Room Theatre Ministry has stepped Into The Woods and brought out a new side of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical.”

    Read the full article

    Fr. Jack and Fr. Peter released to Youth Apostles

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    Effective June 29, 2016, Bishop Loverde has agreed to release Fr. Peter and Fr. Jack for full-time service with Youth Apostles.

    With the release, Bishop Loverde has also decided to assign another Chaplain to George Mason Catholic Campus Ministry. GMU has been a fantastic place for ministry for our community, and it will be hard for Fr. Peter to leave after 16 years of ministry. Fr. Peter leaves Mason in good hands, with 11 full time staff members (including six FOCUS Missionaries). He has made a tremendous impact among the students, as well as on campus with many student organizations. Bishop Loverde has appointed Fr. James Searby to serve as Chaplain.

    In the Richmond Diocese, Bishop Francis DiLorenzo and Mike School have extended an invitation to have Fr. Peter become the Chaplain at James Madison University. After much prayer and discussion, we have decided to assign Fr. Peter there with great hopes for the future for him and for the ministry at JMU.

    Finally, Bishop Loverde has entrusted the pastoral care of the Chaplaincy and Campus Ministry at Marymount University to our community for three years. At this time, Fr. Tom Yehl will continue as Director and Chaplain of Campus Ministry and Fr. Jack Peterson will continue as Assistant Chaplain.

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