10 Jan 2019
New Jersey: Don Bosco Prep Students Serve to Needy Kids in Belle Glade
by Jennifer Passerino and Br. Travis Gunther, SDB
(Ramsey, N.J. – January 8) – Over Christmas week, 13 students from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., spent their vacation at St. Philip Benizi Parish in Belle Glade, Fla., served by the Salesians, working as counselors at the parish’s three-day winter camp, December 27-29. Run by Fr. Matthew DeGance, SDB, St. Philip Benizi’s pastor and former campus minister at Don Bosco, this spiritual and missionary journey offers direct interaction, activities, fun, and prayer to children living in one of the most impoverished areas of the United States.
The DBP students were accompanied by Bro. Sasika Lokuhettige, SDB, and Bro. Travis Gunther, SDB, of the school staff.
Each day began with breakfast and Mass, followed by camp activities including games of kickball, basketball, four square, tag, as well as arts and crafts. The DBP students also arranged fun skits for the children.
Part of the boys’ responsibilities during the week was cooking meals for themselves and the other camp volunteers, as well as cleaning and helping with yard work around the parish grounds.
As part of the missionary experience, Fr. Matt gave the boys a tour of Belle Glade, where the poverty is most evident. A repeated theme in the evenings’ reflections was the similarities and differences between Don Bosco Prep and Belle Glade, giving the boys the opportunity to compare their lives to those of the underprivileged, and understanding the importance of helping others.
Some of the enjoyable activities during the week were ice skating with the campers, a volunteer barbeque at Fr. Matt’s parents’ house, bowling, and evening socializing with the Belle Glade teens.
At the end of the trip, the boys reflected on the three days of camp and discussed what they were grateful for and what offered them challenges. The campers and counselors celebrated a final Mass together on Saturday evening in honor of the Holy Family. Fr. Matt expressed his gratitude to the boys for their presence in Belle Glade and invited everyone back during the summer to help out with the summer oratory.