SALT LAKE CITY – A new youth group at St. Vincent de Paul Parish has been formed around the Works of Mercy, charitable actions by which Christians help their neighbors.
“We talk so much about that throughout Confirmation, and my wife and I wondered how we could help these kids go out and live those, not just do it because it’s an assignment for Confirmation,” said Jason Caywood, who, along with his wife Melissa, is organizing the youth group.
The Caywoods have lived in the parish for nine years after returning from a move away. Both are members of the parish’s faith formation team and teach the Confirmation class. Jason Caywood said attempts have been made in the past to put together a parish youth group but for various reasons they have not been successful. Still, this year he felt it was important to try again.
“On the faith formation team we recognized that we had a wonderful program from very young all the way through Confirmation and then it just dropped off from there,” he said.
Last year, when he and his wife began teaching the Confirmation group, they asked their students if they would be interested in forming the nucleus of a youth group with a focus on service. The students agreed, and in early December the youth group was formed.
They started out with six members; by month end that number had grown to 12. The group is geared toward students in grades nine to 12; everyone in that age group from St. Vincent de Paul Parish and other parishes that do not have a youth group is invited to participate.
One member of the group is the Caywoods’ son Roman, 15, a freshman at Cottonwood High School.
“I like it because it brings me closer to God and just have a stronger relationship with him,” Roman said of being involved in the youth group. “Also, it helps me to know more and become friends with more kids, and just get out in the world and help as many people as possible.”
In December, the group held two meetings – one by Zoom and the other at the parish’s Benvegnu Center, where participants were masked and socially distanced. On Dec. 23, they visited Sunrise at Holladay, a senior living facility, to drop off Christmas cards and board games for the residents.
This month, the youth group is collecting cash and stuffed animals to donate to Bears for Ben, a program that provides stuffed animals to medical facilities and first responders to pass out to children experiencing traumatic circumstances. Upcoming planned activities include helping out at the St. Vincent de Paul dining hall, working with the Utah Humane Society and organizing a diaper drive to collect supplies for the Crossroads Urban Center. The group is also reaching out to the parish community for contributions.
“We’re really trying to give back and to get involved,” Caywood said.
Although the primary focus of the group is service, the youth group will also hold fun activities as pandemic conditions allow. On Dec. 28, the local Knights of Columbus sponsored a bowling night for the kids. If pandemic conditions improve sufficiently by next summer, they would like to do a U.S. mission trip and an international mission trip in 2022.
In the meantime, the group will continue to meet two to three times a month, virtually and socially distanced, to move forward with their works of mercy. For information about the youth group, contact the parish or email Jason Caywood at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org.