By ROB HERBST
MOBILE — About 375 teenagers and adults from across the country descended on Mobile to put their faith in action.
They came for the “Alive in You” Catholic Conference and service camp June 26-July 1. Campers stayed at Spring Hill College for the week and performed service projects at various sites throughout Mobile. Some of the sites included Visitation and Carmelite monasteries, Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic Cemetery and several Catholic schools.
But the camp is designed to be much more than an opportunity to provide community service. There’s ample time for prayer and discussion and each camp has a theme. This camp’s theme was “The Paschal Mystery.”
“There are service elements of a work camp, but also spiritual depth to it,” said Jim Weir, who co-founded the national youth ministry with his wife, Heather. “We take all these foundational elements of our faith and the goal is to help them see how that applies to their life as a 15-year-old.”
The first “Alive in You” camp took place in 2006 in New Orleans and included about 500 campers, Jim Weir said. This summer “Alive in You” camps are being held in five cities and about 1,700 people are expected to participate.
This is the fourth year it has visited Mobile.
About 14 parishes and schools came from Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Mississippi. Many of the groups are also “Alive in You” regulars.
Devyn Buschow, a youth minister at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Duncanville, Texas, was attending her 12th “Alive in You.”
She attended the inaugural event as a camper, where she met her future husband, and now leads her parish group.
“I love it because I think it’s the perfect mix of doing service and then you have the Catholic conference,” Buschow said. “As a youth minister, my numbers have almost doubled in two years of coming on the trip. They just make such close bonds and keep coming back. … They (may not) have a lot of Catholic friends at their school but get to make friends here and feel close to people.”
Teens from Holy Spirit were hard at work at the Mobile Catholic Cemetery. During their first day of work Buschow said they were brushing away pine needles when they discovered 12 headstones.
“We remembered all their names and prayed a Chaplet of Divine Mercy for them,” Buschow said. “They were all from the (1950s), some adults, some youths, so they probably don’t have a lot of people praying for them.”
Teens from Holy Spirit Parish in Orlando, Fla., were painting inside Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic School.
It was 17-year-old Victoria Hernandez’ second year to participate in “Alive in You” and she said the camp has had a profound influence on her.
“It’s life-changing,” Hernandez said. “I love how spiritually alive you feel. We all have the same reason for being here, giving back to the community. … You’re surrounded by positivity. Here we are all united and love our faith so much.”