Article by Patrick Daigle, Conquest teen leader in Oak Ridge, TN.
Conquest is a 5th through 8th grade youth group found across the country to help strengthen the Catholic Faith in middle school boys. My group is found in St. Mary’s Parish, Oak Ridge, TN. It is led by high school boys, most of whom went to Conquest as middle schoolers (including myself) and is mentored by adults. We strengthen the Faith through talks and interactive games. At the end of every semester, twice a year, we get together to do an apostolic project, much like what the twelve apostles did to spread the Faith. Many past projects included visiting a veterans’ home, a ticket raffle fundraiser, a Catholic video competition, and, most recently, helping out in the Under the Bridge Ministry.
It all started out with our adult mentors suggesting it. Our mentors are Dave Duhamel, Mike Barnes, Kevin Corbett, Brad Heun, and John Merrill. One thing led to another, and we all chose that for this semester’s apostolic project. We invited Deacon Scott Mentz, the founder of Under the Bridge Ministries, to talk to the boys about what they do. One Saturday a month, they make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or hotdogs and give them to the homeless in Knoxville. They distribute the food under a bridge, hence the name.
At about 8:30 in the morning, my younger brother and I went to our youth building to help make the sandwiches. The kids and the high school leaders made the sandwiches, and the adults supervised. There was a plan to make about 200 sandwiches, but we made much more, and we also had Panera goods that were donated to us. Bottled water, coffee, and lemonade were bought for drinks. We drove to a spot directly under Interstate 40. For about two hours, we handed out sandwiches, drinks, and sweets to the homeless. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I was shocked at the number of homeless. We fed about 50 people, from young adults to older people. I had no idea that there were this many people in this living condition in the vicinity. What made me feel better was that we were helping them all with giving them a free, nourishing meal, and then some.
While we were serving, a vehicle that read the Jesus Bus stopped by. The people on the bus gave us some sweets, which we, in turn, gave to the homeless. We ended up with few leftovers, and very happy people. This project put a strong perspective in my life. I thought of how they had to live with no home, and a daily struggle for food and water. I thought the rush to finish homework was bad! It made me want to do just about anything to help them. I would definitely want to do this apostolic project again.
As a final bonus, we went to the chancery to meet Bishop Stika for lunch, and we also had a small FaceTime with Cardinal Rigali. After a lunch of hot dogs, we were given a small tour of the new Sacred Heart Cathedral.
On a side note we also helped raise funds for a project by another teen leader Daniel Kass. The fire pit is now located in front of our youth building.