by Therese Horvat
Special to The Leaven
SHAWNEE — Her niece’s need for service hours sparked an idea in the mind of Haley Klemencic, director of marketing for Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas.
Klemencic knew her employer could provide opportunities for youth to place flags at veterans’ gravestones on holidays and assist with other projects at its nine cemetery locations.
But why stop there?
“Why not go beyond that and help coordinate service activities with other organizations?” she thought. “Why not engage even more people — teenagers and adults — in supporting and performing corporal works of mercy?”
Her vision became a reality on June 23 with a well-attended, lively and productive youth ministry night at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Shawnee. Klemencic partnered with Jen Zans, youth ministry coordinator at the parish, to arrange the event. Zans learned about the possible service project through an email Klemencic sent to the archdiocesan school office.
For the actual service project, however, Klemencic reached out to Children’s Mercy Hospital. Staff there identified the need for “Happy Kits” to give children something to do while waiting for medical appointments.
The result of this behind-the-scenes coordination was a jam-packed evening during which Sacred Heart youth assembled 95 individual kits. The plastic bags contained bottles of bubble solution, coloring books, crayons, small books, stickers and age-appropriate playing cards.
Catholic Cemeteries donated items for 80 of the “Happy Kit” bags. With the idea of “paying it forward,” Zans invited the youth and their families to donate items for future assembly of kits by other groups. However, the Sacred Heart youth worked so quickly that they used many of these items to assemble more kits than originally planned.
The middle school students may have been fueled by the plentiful pizza and cookies that started the evening, compliments of the parish. Or there’s a good chance they were energized by the inspiring words of Dr. Charlie Cartwright, owner and CEO of Company Culture Doctors. Cartwright praised the youth for stepping forward, being accountable and helping others. The motivational speaker said that these good habits will impact their lives in the future. In his blessing before the pizza dinner, Father Pat Sullivan, pastor, also acknowledged the attendees for taking time from their summer schedules to do good for others.
In addition to assembling the kits, the youth designed and wrote 75 thank you cards to active military. The evening concluded with recitation of the rosary, visiting with friends and participating in team-building activities.
By all accounts, Klemencic considers the youth ministry night a success. There were 40 to 45 persons on-site. Sacred Heart youth had fun earning confirmation service hours by helping others. Those who had never heard about Catholic Cemeteries learned about this ministry. And Children’s Mercy Hospital has a new supply of “Happy Kits” for distribution to patients.
Sharon Vallejo, president and CEO of Catholic Cemeteries, observed, “Beyond our mission of burying the dead with dignity and respect, we focus on care and concern for the living.”
Vallejo explained that this care will continue with future service projects planned in collaboration with organizations, including the American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation and the Knights of Columbus. For information or to become involved in a service project, contact Catholic Cemeteries of Northeast Kansas at (913) 371-4040 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.