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Austintown students make sure none get left behind, or alone

March 11, 2020
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Immaculate Heart of Mary's Youth Ministry recently completed their Lenten Mission for 2020, which was to help others their own age while opening the members' eyes to the needs that exist around them.

The theme for this year's mission was "Change our Hearts, Change our Minds." As with any Immaculate Heart of Mary Youth Ministry session, the students were treated to lunch followed by a competitive yet fun team building activity.

The students learned of the Comfort and Hope Blanket Ministry that has been providing birthday blankets and bags to local children who have been orphaned, abused, or neglected. Blankets are made then delivered to Mahoning County Children's Services. These blankets help those who receive them obtain something that they can truly call their own.

Article Photos

Dominic Pappagalo and Emma Pruchniewicz put fringes on a basketball blanket that will end up with a foster kid in the Youngstown area that is their own age. The blankets are part of an Immaculate Heart of Mary Youth Ministry program for the Lent season.

It was important to introduce this concept to the Austintown students of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church during Lent, because often times they do not feel as if there is a need right here at home in our community. Unfortunately, kids their own age in foster care do not get to celebrate birthdays and this birthday blanket helps these teens who have already lost so much feel special again. The Lenten Mission Theme 'Change our Hearts, Change our Minds' helped the students gather understand what is was like to be a Foster Child and helped change their opinions on who the needy can be.

The IHM Youth Ministry presently has 35 members in grades six through 12. They meet in the Youth Room at the church, which is a space designed for a purpose back when the group was first organized.

"While the date on the IHM Youth Ministry Banner states 1981, I am not too sure when a formal program was established. I know the Ministry behind the program has evolved over recent years and went through several changes in order to re-invent itself to make it viable in today's world filled with countless other clubs and activities," said team member Nick Moliterno. "Back in 2012 Immaculate Heart of Mary Church recognized that teenagers thrive in a community where their gifts and accomplishments are acknowledged and recognized. They need to know that they are valued, contributing members of a vibrant community that cares for them. That is why the need for a Church youth room was established."

Moliterno said the room would be a space designed and completed by the youth which they could truly call their own. The youth of the parish, with paint brushes in hand, converted the former convent of Immaculate Heart of Mary into a place to gather and enjoy food, fun, and fellowship with one another.

All the Youth Ministry kids back in 2012 participated by creating and designing it with what they had, donating supplies and painting the walls and furniture. This room now serves as the primary meeting area for Youth Ministry. Sessions typically start off with lunch then move into interaction through Scripture, discussion and reflection, along with fun and friendly competitions between one another. The room is also used on a weekly basis by the 8th graders who are preparing for their Confirmation. This helps them get familiarized with the surroundings of the room so, that they want to come back in High School.

As for the Lenten Mission Projects, in the past the projects have varied depending on the need. Over the past couple of years the Youth Lenten Mission was one of giving back, where the kids would donate their gently used or new toys, sports items, books, and gift cards to a raffle for everyone to participate. Money raised was donated to the Holy Childhood Association's Children giving to Children program.

"While we are still going to hold the raffle again this year for all the kids to participate, the 2020 mission was brought forward by a member on the team who wanted to give the youth an opportunity to physically give something to help other kids their own age, rather than simply hand over collected money," Moliterno said. "It helped them recognize a need they did not know existed less than 10 miles away and allowed them to work together physically to produce something they could call their own, similar to the Youth Room."

The Youth Ministry also gets involved with many other projects throughout the year as well.

"We try to emphasize to the kids that our understanding of Church mission goes far beyond the four walls of Immaculate Heart of Mary and out into the community and beyond," Moliterno said. "While our youth assist with Friday fish dinners here, Church decorating, and various upkeep projects including Hymnal replacement, we like to focus more on what our Youth Ministry does outside of the Parish Grounds on Norquest Boulevard. Therefore, Immaculate Heart of Mary Youth Ministry provides a visible presence in the community through service projects that include preparing, cooking and serving for the Saint Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen as well as BINGO nights at local community Nursing Homes."

While a lot of kids and people are helped through the Youth ministry, the members involved also get a lot out of it. Faith, fun, and fellowship filled their afternoon as they worked on multiple blankets and making letters of inspiration for the foster kids. The session concluded with a prayer service.

"Mother Theresa once said, 'It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.' That is why our youth here at IHM gathered," Moliterno said. "It truly helped our Austintown teens recognize that there is a need right here in the valley and that the needy can be someone their own age."

Along with Moliterno, the Active Team consists of Mary Jo Orsini-Director, and Dr.Anne Baker, Terry Chance, Vickie Glaydura, and Pete Goche.



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