Youth group all about reaching out


First Posted: 4/8/2013

Michelle Stark, of Wyoming, knows what it’s like to need a helping hand. Having a disabled sister taught her the importance of reaching out to people in need and had a profound effect on how she leads her life.

The influence of Stark’s sister led her to become a physical therapist. She works at the John Heinz Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Wilkes-Barre and, for the past six years, has been the leader of the youth group at St Monica’s Parish in West Wyoming.

According to Father Leo McKernan, the youth group is about the three Ss – Spiritual Life, Service and Social – all intertwined together. Stark’s role with the group is about service and social, through her outreach and community service efforts with such activities as Bowling for Big Brothers, visiting the SPCA, a senior prom at Wesley Village and visits to St Joe’s Center. Many of her activities involve helping disabled individuals.

“I want to get kids involved with community service to show them how important service is,” Stark said.

Her group consists of about 15 teenagers, including her two daughters, Rachael and Hallie.

“I love it; I love being involved in the community,” says Rachael. “I like the feeling I get helping people,” added Gaetano Buonsante, another member of the group.

The youth group also provides an opportunity for teens to perform community service hours for senior projects, Key Club activities and confirmation, said Stark.

While Stark leads the youth group in the social and service aspects, Jerry Bauman is charged with the spiritual life of the group. A chance conversation with Fr. McKernan led him to discover Bauman’s work with Divine Mercy Youth Ministry.

Bauman had worked in Scottsdale, Arizona and also with a street ministry working with gangs and run-a-ways in Chicago before moving to the area.

Divine Mercy Youth Ministry’s mission is to help youths to truly know God through prayer. Bauman has organized teen prayer hours, which are held on Wednesday nights and he is working with other parish volunteers to build a chapel in the church basement. He is also forming a core team of young teen leaders and college students to help with the Divine Mercy Youth Ministry program.

Father McKernan and Bauman’s goal is to encourage families to spend time together in prayer.

Now, Bauman and Stark work together to lead the youth group, each bringing their own skills to the organization. The group works cooperatively with other youth groups at nearby churches. The group has a busy schedule of retreats, fundraisers and community service projects scheduled for the spring and summer months.

For more information on the youth group, call St. Monica’s Parish at 693-1991.

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