A youth group from a Connecticut-based Catholic church returned to the tri-county area for the sixth straight year to spread a little Christmas joy to the area’s most needy.
Twenty-four teens, and their adult chaperones, from St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church, based in New Canaan, CT, distributed 1,000 Christmas stockings filled with toys, food and everyday items like toothbrushes and toothpaste this past Saturday. Once again, they partnered with Operation Sharing — a 34-year-old subsidiary of the Christian Appalachian Project, which operates a warehousing and distribution facility near Corbin. They also teamed up with other local Catholic churches in the area — including Sacred Heart, in Corbin; St. Williams, in London, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Williamsburg; and St. Gregory’s, in Barbourville.
The group met at the Operation Sharing warehouse Dec. 1 and were given a tour of the facility, before loading up the stockings and leaving to hand them out all over Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties.
“This group is sort of unique because when they were in seventh grade they were the ones filling the stockings. Now, it has come full circle and they are the ones delivering them,” said Chris Otis, Youth Minister for St. Aloysius.
Church youth going through the “confirmation” process raise funds for the trip each year. Otis said the mission trip is, by far, the most popular the church undertakes. All of the church’s mission efforts take place in the continental United States.
In Catholicism, children participate in a two-year study program and are bestowed sacrament of confirmation upon completion. Once complete, they are then considered full members of the Catholic Church, and it symbolizes a maturation process where they are then expected to go into the world to act as active Disciples of Christ.
Otis said each of the stockings contain a canned ham. Additional hams, not used in the stockings, were donated to area food banks. There were about 350 extra hams this year.
Many of the kids have parents that work in the finance industry. New Canaan is a wealthy suburb of New York City.
“We are very blessed,” Otis said. “It is very important for us to show them why God put us on this earth … to serve those in need.”
“The poverty and need they see here is unbelievable. I have to be honest with you, they are amazed and shocked by some of the things they see; and they go back home a little different.”