Fifth Mission Evansville serves local community

By Megan Erbacher

The Message assistant editor

Even if what you are doing may seem small, Holy Redeemer Parishioner Clayton Hertel said it “can leave a lasting impact on someone and (possibly) change their life.”

“Do small things with great love,” Hertel said.

Mission Evansville participants gathered June 14 outside of the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Center for a group photo. The group spent June 14-17 completing service projects in the local community. The Message photos by Megan Erbacher

Hertel was one of 48 diocesan youth, 18 adult chaperones and 17 staff members who gathered June 14-17 at Sarto Retreat House on the Catholic Diocese of Evansville grounds for Mission Evansville. Thirteen diocesan parishes were represented during the fifth home-based mission trip to serve the local community and make a difference in Evansville, according to Executive Director Katie Goebel.

Diocese of Evansville Seminarian Chase Riecker participates in Mission Evansville and helps paint poles in the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Center parking lot on June 15.

Mission Evansville offers high school students a chance to serve the local community through service projects and grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. Participants were divided into nine crews that served 12 organizations, including Seton Harvest, Evansville Christian Life Center, Catholic Charities, House of Bread & Peace, Ozanam Family Shelter, the Tristate Food Bank and the Catholic Center.

Inspired by Mother Teresa's words "small things with great love," Katie Goebel said Evansville youth ministers established Mission Evansville in 2015 “to serve our local brothers and sisters, and to open the eyes of our young people to needs in their very own community.”

“That is why we chose St. Teresa of Calcutta as our patron because she often repeated this message: ‘If you really want to be God's love in the world, begin to be God's love in your own home first. And then you will become the sunshine of God's love to everyone you meet,’” she said.

Mission Evansville aims to bring the love of Christ to the local community through concrete acts of service, to empower youth to meet the needs of their neighbors, and to provide an affordable mission trip experience for area young people.

Mission Evansville students paint speed bumps at the Catholic Center as part of their mission work on June 15. Shown are Gibson Southern High School student and Holy Cross parishioner Emilee Bullock, 17, left; Reitz High School student and Resurrection parishioner Alyssa Beyer, 16; and Mater Dei High School student and St. Philip parishioner Aiden Fehrenbacher, 16. 

After a three-year hiatus, Sherie Cooley said it was “wonderful working as a team again.” Cooley, Mission Evansville’s administrative director, said the last Mission Evansville was in 2019.

“This ministry is completely fueled by the Holy Spirit,” she said. “It's been phenomenal seeing what God has been able to accomplish. … I had a student tell me, for her, Jesus was everything, her entire life. Her experience at Mission Evansville lit that fire, and I'm humbled and in awe to be part of it.”

By the end of the week, Katie Goebel said the crew at Seton Harvest harvested 2,500 garlic bulbs for local shareholders and donated boxes to Ozanam Family Shelter, while another crew packaged 453 backpacks of food for children who have limited access to food during the summer.

During his homily, Bishop Siegel told participants that they fulfilled God’s missionary call by serving the local community, telling them that they have become true home missionaries by making Christ present to those they served. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

Katie Goebel said the most encouraging part is the spiritual growth in young people.

“Serving our brothers and sisters is the responsibility of everyone because we are all made in the image and likeness of God,” she said. “Then they carry that message of small things with great love and the transforming love of Christ into their everyday life after Mission Evansville.”

Jeremy Goebel, Mission Evansville program director and diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, thanked everyone who helped make Mission Evansville possible, including the presence and support of Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, who celebrated the closing Mass on June 17 in the Catholic Center’s Celebration Hall.

He hopes participants learn there is a need to serve in our community, and you don't have to travel far to serve those in need.

“I hope that each participant will come to understand that it's not the greatness of the acts themselves that matter, but the amount of love that we pour into them,” he said.

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated Mass for Mission Evansville participants and their families June 17 at the Diocese of Evansville Catholic Center. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

Participants share thoughts on Mission Evansville

Allison Weber, St. Philip Parish, Mt. Vernon: “The smallest of communities need help too, not just big cities. Also, the little things make a big difference, like helping your parents at home.”

Matthew Schroeder, Holy Redeemer Parish, Evansville: “I’ve learned that there are a lot of people out there who need help. I am very blessed to have such a great family and community, and I want to use my privileges to help others.”

Levi Kunkler, Resurrection Parish, Evansville: “The best part about Mission Evansville is making new friends.”

Abigail Wright, St John the Baptist Parish, Newburgh: “To anyone thinking about Mission Evansville, do it! Be open to serving. No task is too small.”