There are sacrifices, and there are sacrifices. Then there are 200 teenagers going 36 hours without their cell phones.
That is one of the facets of the Hunger for Justice, a service retreat for teenagers from St. Mary’s and other schools and parishes throughout the North Shore. The retreat started Good Friday at noon at Short Beach in Nahant and concluded with the Easter Vigil Mass Saturday night at St. Mary’s.
Participants went without food and their cell phones while spending their time praying, mingling and working on a variety of community service projects and outreach. This marked the fifth year that St. Mary’s hosted Hunger for Justice, coordinated by St. Mary’s School campus ministers Andrea Alberti and Chris Carmody. Head of School Grace Cotter Regan, Marian Division Administrator Jade Henne, St. Mary's Pastor Rev. Brian Flynn and St. Mary’s Parish Deacon Gerry Souza also participated.
Participating teens – about 75 percent of whom are from St. Mary’s – raise money through pledges. This year, proceeds will benefit an orphanage on Cambodia, which was visited last summer by St. Mary’s sophomore Kaitlin Bowen while on a family vacation, and Catholic Relief Services.
“Hunger for Justice provides teens the opportunity to embrace the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving,” Alberti said, noting that it is the largest overnight service retreat in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Following a prayer service on Short Beach led by Rev. Matt Williams, director for the Office of New Evangelization for the archdiocese, the teens processed to St. Thomas Church, carrying a cross and stopping to recite the Rosary along the way. They then worshipped at the 3 p.m. Good Friday service.
After church, the students went back to St. Mary’s for their version of the Last Supper – their last meal for more than 24 hours. They watched “The Passion of the Christ” movie and participated in various games, prayers and team-building activities. They made cardboard “homes” to sleep in at the Tony Conigliaro Gym in order to relate to the plight of the homeless.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, the students boarded buses for Boston to give away food and clothing to homeless individuals on the street and celebrate the sacrament of Penance. After returning to Lynn, they participated in a variety of community-service projects at homeless shelters, churches and nonprofit organizations. At 4 p.m. the visiting students returned to their parishes, while the St. Mary’s students stayed for the Easter Vigil, which was followed by a Resurrection party at which they enjoyed food, especially items they have given up for Lent.
St. Mary’s Pastor Rev. Brian Flynn, Rev. Tim Murphy of Immaculate Conception in Salem and Rev. John McGinnis of St. John the Baptist in Peabody provide spiritual leadership for the Hunger for Justice, which has raised more than $50,000 the last four years and provided thousands of hours of community service.