With mission trip to overseas orphanage cancelled, Holy Apostles teens serve others on the home front

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CRANSTON — The missionary teen group from Holy Apostles Church in Cranston had planned to travel to Blessed Assurance orphanage in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in July before the trip was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. For this group of 16 teens, a year filled with service projects and fundraising preparing for their mission trip was met with disappointment as they all were looking forward to helping others in this special way.

Abigail Shellard, 17, a junior at Cranston West, was still eager to give back and inspired to help others from home. So she took action, wanting to help relieve the stress for all those in the medical field who put their lives at risk in serving the sick and suffering, particularly those treating patients with COVID-19.

She planned and organized the logistics of a snack drive to help these local health care workers. Shellard texted her mission group about the idea and they were all quick to help and donate.

“Our healthcare workers have been working tirelessly day and night to make sure that our community remains a healthy and safe place,” she explained. “Everybody wants to be able to return to normal life as soon as possible, but in order to do that we need to beat this virus at hand. Obviously, we can all do our part in staying home and following the directions of the CDC and the government, but we can always do more.”

Michael Santilli, Youth Minister at Holy Apostles, helped facilitate the use of the church parking lot as a drop-off location and Shellard posted a flyer to social media to encourage people to pitch in and donate.

The teens collected two carloads of snacks and drinks for Rhode Island Hospital while following all rules of social distancing. Santilli shared that the hospital was extremely appreciative and overwhelmed with the collection.

“As a youth minister, I am constantly amazed by our teens’ willingness to serve others in need, especially the most vulnerable,” he said. “The teens also lift up daily in prayer all who are sick, suffering, who have died and those who care for the them though our group text network. This has allowed our teens a means of sharing their faith, calming their own fears and witnessing to others. We are very proud of their initiative and faith service.”

Holy Apostles missionary Michael Stabile, 18, a La Salle Academy senior, said that while the group's international service trip preparation had come to an unexpected halt, the missionaries all worked hard to provide a different form of service to medical professionals at Rhode Island Hospital. 

“In the midst of this outbreak, many people have found themselves troubled and without much to occupy their time,” explained Stabile. “This service opportunity granted us the ability to occupy our time while lifting the spirits of local healthcare workers. As a Catholic youth group, we strive to live as disciples of Christ, ministering to those in our community and beyond.”

Grateful to see the final outcome of this project, Shellard feels that they would not have had as great of an outcome, if it were not for the missionary team.

“I feel like it is important for us as a group to remember that we want to help serve our community as best as we can, and at this time there are so many groups of people who need help,” she said. “To be able to give these healthcare workers something to thank them for all of the amazing work that they are doing every day is the least that we can do, but no amount of snacks will ever amount to the amount of gratitude that we have for them and all of the essential workers helping to play a part in keeping us safe.”