Fast tackles tough issues - Catholic Courier

Fast tackles tough issues

Midway through Holy Week, Gloria Gambino suffered a sprained ankle and ligament damage from a fall in gym class. Yet she willingly took on more discomfort later in the week, keeping her commitment to not eat for 24 hours straight.

“I could offer the pain up (to God),” she said, adding that her trials were small compared to the constant suffering going on in other parts of the world. “Every time I got hungry, I kept thinking about all the people in Third World countries and (victims of) the tsunami. This is what it’s like every day for them.”

Gloria, 14, was among the many young people who took part in Our Lady of the Valley Parish’s 24-Hour Food Fast. The annual event was held from 5:30 p.m. Good Friday, March 25, to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26, on the campus of St. Ann’s Church in Hornell. Amy Mikolajczyk, Our Lady of the Valley’s youth minister, noted that an all-time high of 35 youths in grades 6 through 12, from Hornell and surrounding communities, took part.

The fast began with ice-breaking activities at St. Ann’s School, followed by a reconciliation service in the church with individual confessions heard by the parish priests — Fathers Patrick Van Durme, Robert Kanka and Paul Schnacky.

Participants then did a “Make A Station” project followed by a candlelight Stations of the Cross, linking the stations with social and political problems around the world.

“Everyone got very into it and tried to make it the best they could,” said Laura Karns, 17.

After sleeping overnight in the school, the group began Saturday with prayers from St. Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton, then viewed a Catholic Relief Services video explaining the 24-Hour Food Fast model that Our Lady of the Valley followed. Moving outside, a “canned food scavenger hunt” took place with youths going door-to-door collecting items for Steuben County Rural Ministry. From there, they visited the homes of parishioners who gave witness talks.

Back at St. Ann’s, a discussion was then held on the causes of poverty. Finally, the last 45 minutes of the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” was shown. “It was pretty powerful. A lot of the kids had never seen a crucifixion scene,” Mikolajczyk said.

The fast was officially broken with a pizza party; up to that point, participants had gotten by on juice and water. Mikolajczyk observed that some people, in order to make it a true fast, had abstained even from juice for all 24 hours.

Laura said she endured the fast fairly well. “Amy (Mikolajczyk) kept us so busy that we really weren’t focusing on being hungry. I didn’t get hungry until the last hour of fasting,” she said. Others apparently got hunger pangs toward the end as well: Laura observed that six pizzas — three of them sheet-sized — disappeared quickly.

The 24-Hour Food Fast was a big boost for the community. Along with 300-plus pounds of food collected from the scavenger hunt, participants raised $325 from area businesses for Catholic Relief Services and $112 from personal sponsors for Steuben County Rural Ministry prior to the fast.

Nick Cocchetto, 17, has now taken part in several 24-Hour Food Fasts, including this year’s. “It is a deep experience. It makes you think about what you truly value in life, and it helps you learn to appreciate what you have. Plus all the people who come are great,” he said.

Mikolajczyk gave special credit to adult chaperons Suzanne Piatt and Tim Haley. Meanwhile, Gloria noted that several adults and youths carried her for portions of the fast that she couldn’t manage on crutches.

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