Teenagers fast for those who starve - Catholic Courier

Teenagers fast for those who starve

PENFIELD — Samantha Mitchell, 17, admitted she was a “big juice junkie.”

“I’m the kind of person who has to drink every two minutes, so you don’t think about how hungry you are,” she said.

If that’s truly the case, Samantha had a chance to feed her addiction at St. Joseph’s Church on March 4. A table outside the parish gymnasium was almost completely covered by plastic jugs of juices, brought there by members of the youth group.

From noon the day before until 6 p.m. that day, the St. Joseph’s teenagers were drinking juice instead of eating solid foods, according to Johan Engstrom, director of youth ministry. In addition to abstaining from eating, the teenagers participated in service projects at such Rochester sites as Ss. Peter and Paul Church, and the Francis Center and Women’s Place, two Catholic Family Center shelters.

Each teenager sought sponsors for their 30-hour “Famine Fast,” Engstrom said, noting the monies raised went to World Vision International, a Christian relief and development organization. In 2004, World Vision offered material, emotional, social and spiritual support to 100 million people in 96 countries, according to its Web site at www.wvi.org.

In addition to the youth-group members at St. Joseph, Engstrom said young people from Church of the Resurrection in Fairport, as well as Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian and Christian Reformed churches in Fairport and Penfield, also participated in the Famine Fast. To learn about hunger, the teenagers took part in a variety of activities, including role-playing exercises about starving people, Engstrom said. The fast ended with a meal and an interdenominational service, he added, noting the shared fasting and money-raising experience had a beneficial effect on the young people.

“The actions that they can take helps them to recognize that they can do things together that they can’t do alone,” he said.

Cathy Reitz, youth minister at Resurrection, said the parish’s young people visited food pantries, shelters and outreach centers as part of the fast, and said she thought the fact the young people weren’t eating gave them a different perspective on how others live.

“(Fasting) allows them to feel for 30 hours what some kids feel every day,” she said.

That point was brought home by three members of St. Joseph’s group.

Sarah Meath, 16, said the Famine Fast made her appreciate how readily food is available to families with means such as her own. For example, she said, while working at one food pantry, she saw a slightly bruised apple that was fit for consumption but couldn’t be sold in an area market. She added that she was glad she had the support of her fellow young Catholics during the fast.

“If you’re just by yourself, it’s just so tempting to go off and eat something,” she said.

Samantha Wolfe, 17, said the fast had helped her develop empathy for those in need.

“I’d like to volunteer more,” she said.

Eric Van Overbake, 17, said he worked at Francis Center, and the shelter made him appreciate his own home.

“You might complain that your house is smaller than somebody else’s, but at least you have a house,” he said.

He added that he thought fasting was a challenge any teenager could handle.

“I am one of those people who probably eats more than anyone here,” he said, noting he’s been known to devour more than his fair share of pizza at youth-group meetings. “If I can give up food for 30 hours, anyone can.”

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