A group from two East Coast dioceses made the trip to the Project Grow Inner City Art Camp

CHICAGO (July 18, 2014) – Youth from Darien, Conn., and Hicksville, N.Y., have just returned from a weeklong trip to Ohio where they helped serve disadvantaged children at the Project Grow Inner City Art Camp in Youngstown before moving on to a youth conference in Steubenville. The trip was made possible by donors from Catholic Extension, a national nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and build the Catholic faith in some of America’s poorest areas, many of which are located in mission dioceses like the Diocese of Youngstown. A mission diocese is one in which the Catholic Church is emerging, and even thriving, but does not have the financial resources and infrastructure to be self-sustaining. Since its founding, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to poor Catholic dioceses throughout America.

The camp is in its fourth year and came about following a trip by members of the Diocese of Youngstown to New Orleans to help a local church recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina. One of the first programs to come back there after the hurricane was an inner city art camp. Father Ed Brienz, Director, Propagation of the Faith and Missions Office for the Diocese of Youngstown, knew he wanted to bring the idea back home.

“Many of the inner city children in Youngstown are from poor families who are in need of a community and a place for their children to thrive,” said Brienz. “By providing this creative outlet of art and music, we can engage the children and their families while bringing them closer to Christ through the church.”

As the camp grew, volunteers were needed to act as “teachers’ helpers”. The focus of the camp aligned perfectly with the Catholic Extension mission and the desire of a donor to send her daughter to a mission area of the country to do service.  Another generous New York-based donor pitched in financially to help fund the trip and then the plans were set for a service/immersion trip. Kathleen Gunn, Director of Development, Northeast Region for Catholic Extension, was able to work with youth leaders in the Bridgeport and Rockville Centre dioceses to form a group of 10 high school students and chaperones eager to answer the call for help.

“We were thrilled to be able to make this trip a reality and teach the kids about faith in action,” said Brenner LeCompte, youth minister at St. John Church in Darien, who served as a chaperone. “To see firsthand how helping others can build the American Catholic Church through serving others is something these kids will take with them forever.” Brienz expressed his gratitude to the group by saying, “We are incredibly thankful to Catholic Extension and to the East Coast kids for their support and service and hope that the program continues to grow for years to come.”

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One of the highlights of the Art Camp each year is the day the students make chalk drawings on the sweeping sidewalks in front of the St. Columba Cathedral. There, Bishop Murry, S.J.  greets and encourages the students and their volunteer teachers. The kids also enjoyed a field trip to the local art museum for inspiration. On another day, the group prepared and served a dinner for homeless people at the Dorothy Day House. Some of the high school helpers were from the neighboring communities of Salem and Ashtabula, and some of them spoke limited or no English. The students from Hicksville were able to translate for the Spanish-speaking kids, forming a bond between the students. The trip for the high school students also incorporated the practice of faith with nightly spiritual reflection on the day and retreat experiences in addition to celebrating mass, Eucharistic adoration, prayer and songs.

Photos from the camp are available upon Request. In addition, Le Compte and Gunn are available to provide further insights from the trip. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Catholic Extension’s PR representative, Lisa Gunggoll, at lisa@lg-pr.com or call 708.829.8669.

About Catholic Extension:  Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the Catholic Church in the United States by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses.  Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services that invest in people, their ministries and their churches.  Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than $500 million to communities across America. For more information visit www.catholicextension.org.