Teens Delegates

Teens answering the call to solidarity!

We are proud to have had many teen participants in our diocesan delegations to Homa Bay, Kenya and Maracay, Venezuela. These young people have a great time, and upon their return are wonderful advocates among their peers and others for the importance of global solidarity and mission. Below are some thoughts specifically from some of our teen participants.

2019 Delegation to Homa Bay, Kenya

The following is a reflection written by Isabelle Neville, a student at Tech High School in St. Cloud and parishioner of Holy Spirit, who participated on the 2019 delegation to Homa Bay, Kenya.

This was my second journey to Kenya alongside my amazing mom, who has always been a wonderful mentor and guide for me. Nearly ten years ago, I had my first opportunity to travel to our partners in Homa Bay Kenya. Although the first time was an amazing experience that I still remember very well, my age didn’t allow me to fully understand what my presence meant. This time, I consciously made the choice to take this journey, so I was able to appreciate the cultural and faithful aspects more clearly and deeply. When we were in Homa Bay, I took note of how I wanted to be in my faith as a young catholic and as a human being.

The friends we made were great guides for us. They helped us through the uneasiness of flying, traveling abroad, being away from our families and adjusting to their culture, and not to mention the climate. Our friends in Kenya were supportive through every part of our journey and they stayed close to us physically until the very end and spiritually now that we are back in Minnesota.

Watching the happiness on people’s faces made me better understand why they chose to be catholic: It made them happy. Our friends carry God with them through their everyday lives and God in turn, gives them joy every day. They host us with a smile on their face because they’re excited to see us carrying our faith with us.  They are eager to learn from us and to repay the favor by teaching us. This experience made me want to become more involved with the church here at home and to spread our faith in other parts of the world. It made me want to help people, not by handing stuff to them, but by praying for and beside them.

2011 Delegation to Maracay, Venezuela

The following is a reflection written by Kate Meyer, a high school student at St. John’s Prep in Collegeville and parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph, MN, who participated on the 2011 delegation to Maracay, Venezuela.

cateI had no idea what to expect of this trip.  To be honest, I was confused as to what we would be doing; if it wasn’t a mission trip to build houses and serve food and other ways you define as mission work, what would we be doing?  How do you serve people otherwise?  But looking on it now I see that the point isn’t to indirectly help pull the people out of poverty, to be heroes for the world; it is to connect with the people in a way that would open our eyes to their world and for them to have the opportunity to help us be able to do so.

In this time of broken relationships with Venezuela, many would deem it troubling to want to make a connection with these people.  But seeing the beauty reflected in each person I met, I’ve gotten a deeper understanding of how prejudices – maybe even subconsciously – undermine our views.  I have never in my life met more hospitable people and certainly never this consistency of hospitable people.  No matter where I was I felt welcomed and cared for.  Even though I’ve been tossed into a strange new corner of the world and an unfamiliar culture, I felt like the people made it more completely comfortable to just leave differences behind.  Even with the language barrier it felt like there wasn’t always a need for that kind of communication.  The way there was always someone near to offer you whatever you needed and more was overwhelmingly kind.  And the way everyone hugged you and smiled and looked you in the eye was great.  At some point I realized that you can be at home without being in your physical home.  It doesn’t matter what people told you this group of people would be like; no matter if they were rich, poor, Chavez-supporters or not, live in the city or the middle of nowhere, the hearts of the people are bigger than I could have ever fathomed, and are not so different from each others, even from the world.

Second only to hospitality was the clarity of how their everyday lives revolved around their faith.  It was really beautiful to see how much they confide in God and how everything has faith incorporated into it.  From living with the family I saw how faith was first and everything else came second.  They would take the time to pray before every meal, before every trip in the car, do their service for the parish and attend Mass and other church happenings.  It opened my eyes to how our culture is not at all that conscious about how faith interacts with our lives.  We are always “too busy” for it, and put God second in our every day schedules.  But the people here really can take the time to slow down and let go for a bit so they can remember the gifts they have and thank God for their lives.

The faith and love everyone here has is something that I am so thankful to have been allowed to share.  It was an amazing time to see all that they have to offer the world and to be able to understand how this people can help us in a way I had not realized.  It goes to show that everyone has something important to offer, and it doesn’t have to be material help that many have always paired with service and mission.



2009 Delegation to Homa Bay, Kenya

The following is a reflection written by Tracy Skluzacek, a parishioner of St. Boniface Parish and student at ROCORI schools in Cold Spring, MN, who participated on the 2009 delegation to Homa Bay, Kenya.  Since her trip, Tracy has graduated from Concordia College and has been accepted into the PeaceCorps, where she hopes to continue the love for our global family that she developed on her trip to Homa Bay. 

hb_tracy_goat2009Who am I, and why did I go to Homa Bay?

My name is Tracy Skluzacek. I just graduated from ROCORI High School this spring, and am headed off to college at Concordia in Moorhead to study Spanish and Business. In March I went with 19 other people, including several other youth, from our diocese to our partner diocese of Homa Bay Kenya. It was my first time overseas!

Before traveling I was active in my parish’s youth group and attended weekly Bible Study. I also occasionally played piano at Mass. But I learned about Homa Bay, and I wanted to do more! I felt like God was calling me to do great things in this world, and that traveling to Homa Bay would truly be life changing, and an experience God wanted me to have. My goal for this trip was to experience life from a different perspective. I wanted to discover the gifts that God has given me to share with others, and to decide how to use those gifts in the future. I also hoped to be able to contribute a positive outlook on life, and to receive a deeper appreciation for the life I live.

What did I experience in Homa Bay?

Sunday mass was held on the hillside by the Cathedral where hundreds of people gathered to celebrate with Bishop Philip Anyolo and the delegation from the St. Cloud Diocese. Dancers are typical at mass in the Homa Bay Diocese, and added so much to the liturgy.

 How were youth involved in this trip?

The 2009 delegation included a handful of youth who were able to make great contributions.  These came in the form of playing with young children, getting to know peers in the Homa Bay Diocese, and even donating a pineapple during a collection for the poor at mass.

The young at heart involved in this delegation also contributed tremendously.

I also did an interview about my trip. You can watch it on YouTube – check it out!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6-qtjoN1mk


kristel_hondurasRead more about other teens and young adults who have made mission journeys that have changed their lives!  You can find stories in previous Mission Connections Newsletters.

Visit our Global Solidarity page to find out more about this, and other, ways you can travel or be involved in mission and global solidarity – it’s worth it!! Or check out the pages for our two diocesan partnerships to learn about previous and upcoming diocesan trips.  Feel free to contact the Mission Office for help finding the right experience for you or your youth group.