Two of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy are feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty. On April 29, my Conquest group did just that.
Conquest is a fifth- through eighth-grade youth group found across the country to help strengthen the Catholic faith in middle school boys. My group is found in St. Mary Parish, Oak Ridge. It is led by high school boys, most of whom went to Conquest as middle schoolers (including myself) and is mentored by adults. We strengthen the faith through talks and interactive games. At the end of every semester, twice a year, we get together to do an apostolic project, much like what the Twelve Apostles did to spread the faith. Many past projects included visiting a veterans’ home, a ticket raffle fundraiser, a Catholic video competition, and, most recently, helping out in the Bridge Ministry.
It all started out with our adult mentors suggesting it. Our mentors are Dave Duhamel, Mike Barnes, Kevin Corbett, Brad Heun, and John Merrill. One thing led to another, and we all chose that for this semester’s apostolic project. We invited Deacon Scott Maentz, the founder of the Bridge Ministry, to talk to the boys about what they do. One Saturday a month, they make sandwiches or hot dogs and give them to the homeless in Knoxville. They distribute the food under a bridge, hence the name.
At about 8:30 in the morning, my younger brother and I went to our youth building to help make the sandwiches. The kids and the high school leaders made the sandwiches, and the adults supervised. There was a plan to make about 200 sandwiches, but we made much more, and we also had Panera goods that were donated to us. Bottled water, coffee, and lemonade were bought for drinks. We drove to a spot directly under Interstate 40. For about two hours, we handed out sandwiches, drinks, and sweets to the homeless. It was heartbreaking and heart-warming at the same time. I was shocked at the number of homeless. We fed about 50 people, from young adults to older people. I had no idea that there were this many people in this living condition in the vicinity. What made me feel better was that we were helping them all with giving them a free nourishing meal, and then some.
While we were serving, a vehicle that read the “Jesus Bus” stopped by. The people on the bus gave us some sweets, which we, in turn, gave to the homeless. We ended up with few leftovers and very happy people. This project put a strong perspective in my life. I thought of how they had to live with no home and a daily struggle for food and water. I thought the rush to finish homework was bad! It made me want to do just about anything to help them. I would definitely want to do this apostolic project again.
As a final bonus, we went to the Chancery to meet Bishop Richard F. Stika for lunch, and we also had a small FaceTime with Cardinal Justin Rigali. After a lunch of hot dogs, we were given a small tour of the new Sacred Heart Cathedral.
If you would like to help with the Bridge Ministry, e-mail Deacon Maentz at firstname.lastname@example.org. On a side note, we also helped raise funds for an Eagle Scout project by another teen leader, Daniel Kass.