SPO program offers service day to help needy

| Caroline Rode | August 15, 2013 | 0 Comments
Students seal and pack rice meals at Feed my Starving Children Monday, August 5. The group packed 30,456 meals, the equivalent of feeding 84 kids for one year. Caroline Rode/The Catholic Spirit

Students seal and pack rice meals at Feed my Starving Children Monday, August 5. The group packed 30,456 meals, the equivalent of feeding 84 kids for one year. Caroline Rode/The Catholic Spirit

At 9 o’clock on a Monday morning, more than 200 lively, college-aged students with water and bag lunches in tow filled an auditorium at the University of St. Thomas.

They were there to begin their day of service at St. Paul’s Outreach School of the New Evangelization, which ran from Aug. 2 to 9 at St. Thomas.

The school gathers college students and ministry leaders from all over the United States, according to the website of SPO, a a Twin Cities-based Catholic ministry on college campuses

“SNE is eight days of intensive training, powerful prayer, and deep fellowship that combines dynamic teaching with radical Christian living to bring about a life changing experience,” the website said.

Ryan O’Hara, SPO’s Minnesota Mission Center director, said this is the 10th year of the weeklong event, and the second year the week has included a service day.

“Our hope is that they would take an outward focus in their lives,” O’Hara said. “The service day is just kind of one of those practical ways that moves beyond the training itself. It puts us into real people’s lives right away.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do the service day in the midst of School of the New Evangelization was to put talking about evangelization on hold for a day and do something.”

Making a difference

The O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium was filled with 60 SPO staff members and 160 college students, most being future SPO leaders.

The morning started with the assembly of 750 personal care kits to donate to the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul with the help of Gather4Good, an initiative of Catholic United Financial. The care kits included hygiene products such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and combs. Students wrote letters of prayer and encouragement for each bag that was filled and added them to the kit.

The group then split up and went to places such as Second Harvest Heartland, People Serving People, Pro-Life Action ministries, Highland Friendship Club and Feed my Starving Children.

O’Hara said he wanted a large group of students (86) to go to Feed my Starving Children to draw attention to how kids are affected by poverty.

“They’ve never experienced, or very few have experienced, what it’s like to not know where the next meal is going to come from,” O’Hara said.

Lauren DeZelar of Mary of the Visitation in Big Lake is leading an SPO house at the University of Minnesota this year.

DeZelar went to SNE to learn how to better spread and share her faith while being an SPO leader.

“I hope to really find strength and be able to trust in the Lord much more than I ever have,” DeZelar said.

Paula Bengtson of Holy Family in St. Louis Park is attending the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., and hopes to start an SPO chapter there.

“I’ve just kind of always grown up where if it’s not there you should just make it happen,” Bengtson said.

Nicholas Sparks from Colorado will lead an SPO Men’s house in the fall at Benedictine College in Kansas. Sparks said he hopes the SNE will help him not only to be equipped to bring his classmates closer to God, but help him feel that closeness.

“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been involved

in the faith life but we can always be closer to God,” Sparks said.

With friendship and comradery, Bengtson said the friends she made at SNE were some of the greatest people she’s ever met. She’s hoping this will propel her goal of starting the SPO chapter at the University of Mary.

“Everyone says the School of New Evangelization is the best week of their whole summer, and so far it’s definitely looking to be that way,” Bengtson said.

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