HICKORY — College students from 14 campuses across western North Carolina took part in a special St. Valentine’s Day service weekend Feb. 10-12.
The Diocese of Charlotte’s annual “Give Your Heart Away” (GYHA) weekend is a special opportunity for Catholic Campus Ministry students to see their place in the family of God – experiencing compassion for others in need, shedding preconceived notions and judgments, realizing they are making a difference even by just a few hours of service, and following Jesus’ command to love one another.
This year’s weekend at the Catholic Conference Center, with volunteer opportunities at non-profits in Hickory, began with a room full of strangers and acquaintances. It ended with a deep sense of community and a realization of the importance of helping others. Personal moments with God, laughter and sharing hearts in service to others filled the weekend.
“I think there is something special about spending Valentine’s Day weekend showing your love to the community. In society we tend to focus on just one special person,” said Andrea Genna, who attends UNC-Asheville.
“GYHA was a great opportunity for me to participate in a service experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Very rewarding! ” said Monica Prudencio of Davidson College.
Chelsea Drumgoole, a student at N.C. A&T State University, said she had previously done service hours required by school or a class. “I had never thought of incorporating faith with service before. The GYHA experience helped me realize that God wants us to be there for other people. Now I see service as an opportunity to act out my faith,” she said.
Several students shared ways their hearts had been stretched and their faith deepened because of the GYHA weekend: “I became aware that I can worry less about my future, because God has a plan for me and is always preparing me for it,” said a student from UNC-Asheville.
A student from High Point University noted that she became aware of how privileged she is, “but also how much I can do to help.”
“We need to stand together and help our neighbor,” added a student from UNC-Charlotte.
The power of a simple act of kindness struck another student from Johnson & Wales University: It “can equally spread the love of God. Even if we do not see the fruit of our acts, we need to think beyond the present and (realize) the numerous amounts of people we could be affecting.”
Katlyn Staub of Appalachian State University returned home a changed person. A self-avowed shy person, she was hungry for God and friendship and found both during the GYHA weekend.
“When we came back to our room that Friday evening, my roommate asked me if I was happy with where my faith was and I said no. There’s so much I don’t know yet or forgot about, and I want to grow so much closer to God,” she said.
Her roommate challenged her to commit to learning more and growing closer to God, and they and another retreat participant talked late into the night. They became fast friends, rooted in God’s love and the faith. Her weekend was full of service to people in need and being among people who care. The sharing sessions made her more aware of how God was working in her life, and she caught the fire of enthusiasm of those around her.
“I am now outgoing at Catholic Campus Ministry because of GYHA, and I love every part of it. I am so in love with being Catholic and a part of CCM! I want everyone to experience this. I want them to feel included and safe, to come and be themselves and worship with us,” she said.
— Ann Kilkelly, special to the Catholic News Herald
Through prayer and financial support, you can pass on your faith and hope to college students in western North Carolina. Your financial gift will help Catholic Campus Ministry continue to provide a vital Catholic presence and support for students.
Go online to www.catholiconcampus.com/support or mail a check payable to “Catholic Campus Ministry” to: Catholic Campus Ministry, c/o Diocese of Charlotte, 1123 S. Church St., Charlotte, NC 28203-4003. (If you wish to direct your tax-deductible gift to a specific campus, write the name of the campus in the memo section of your check.)
Give Your Heart Away is a program of Catholic Campus Ministry, which is funded in part by contributions to the annual Diocesan Support Appeal. Learn more about the DSA and donate online at www.charlottediocese.org/dsa.