ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
From left, Caitlin Foley and Kayla Magwood carry the cross from Short Beach to St. Thomas Church during the annual Hunger for Justice retreat.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
NAHANT — Hundreds of teens gathered at Short Beach Friday afternoon to kick off a 40-hour mission to honor the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ.
“A lot of people think Easter can be boring but when you pray and do service projects, it can be a lot of fun,” said Jack Carroll, a St. Mary’s junior.
High school students have participated in the Hunger for Justice retreat for 20 years; St. Mary’s of Lynn has hosted the event for about a decade, said Grace Cotter Regan, St. Mary’s head of school. It focuses on service and prayer while celebrating the Triduum, a three-day period in the liturgical calendar from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
The event started with a prayer service and a skit by St. Mary’s students on the beach. The students then marched to St. Thomas Church, carrying a cross and praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for a Good Friday service and a veneration of the cross. They then went to St. Mary’s for their Last Supper before fasting for 30 hours to allow them to focus less on their bodies and, instead, connect with the spiritual.
The meal was followed by games, prayer and team building activities. Finally, they were issued cardboard boxes to use as their homes for the night.
The primary focus of the retreat is the homeless experience, according to St. Mary’s website. Attendees build and spend the night in the gymnasium in the home they create using only cardboard.
After waking up this morning, the students were bused to Boston to hand out food, drinks, socks, hats, and gloves to the homeless behind the Franciscan Shrine on Arch Street and at the Pine Street Inn.
“I think the best part is that you get the experience of having absolutely nothing so the next day it means more,” said Elizabeth Weisse, a St. Mary’s senior.
After returning to the North Shore, they are expected to split up into groups to complete several hours of community service in a variety of forms; some will volunteer at food pantries, family homes, and homeless shelters. Others will clean, do yard work, and organize food and clothing donations.
The participants are seeking sponsors for each hour of the fast. Proceeds will go to Haiti180, a mission that has built a school, orphanage, and a home for the elderly, and is currently building a medical clinic benefitting the Haitian villages of Duverger and Dan Dann.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.