Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 24, 2003
Youth heal with love, hot soup
FROG Squade keeps its WYD mission alive with inner city work
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
They feed the poor, serve them coffee and juice, give them candy, sing songs for them and mingle with them with surprising familiarity. The 17 young people here tonight seem at home among the poor who frequent the Light House Mission, a 10-month-old inner city soup kitchen for street people.
After handing out dozens of hot soup bowls and sandwiches to her clients, group member Trish Roffey, 25, accompanied by her husband Cory, walks towards the main room and approaches a sobbing older woman.
She hugs the woman and then touches her hair tenderly, murmuring consoling words in her ear. A few minutes later the woman looks a lot happier. "I love her," Trish said. "I come here because of people like her. It's hard to think that she now has to go and sleep on the street."
Earlier Cory, a 25-year-old teacher at St. Brendan Catholic School, had been talking to the guests as well, mingling with them as if they were his most trusted friends. He would sit among them and chat about little nothings and about important stuff as well. Everyone in this group seems skillful at doing that.
In the meantime, Liz Colangelo crisscrosses the room offering Almond Roca, a sort of hard candy made of milk and white and dark chocolate. Another girl helps fill up cups of coffee and juice and hands them out to those clients who request them. Back in the kitchen, some are cleaning pots and trays or heating up more soup or getting more sandwiches ready.
"I love doing this," said 19-year-old Annie McCormack. "I had problems with it at the beginning, but now I love doing it."
While street people munch on the soup and sandwiches, some members of the group play familiar tunes in a corner to entertain their guests. Sometimes their audience joins them, as it happened Monday when a client borrowed the guitar and sang a few tunes himself.
Most of the young people serving at the Light House Mission the evening of Nov. 17 are members of the FROG Squad (Fully Reliant On God), a service group from St. Charles Parish. Most of them, at least 10 of the 15 who currently form the group, attended World Youth Day in Toronto last year. They say their vocation of service came right out of the pope's homily at the event.
Following the event the group remained active, namely doing music ministry within the parish and some service projects here and there. They also helped out doing Confirmation retreats and other catechetical work. But Alan DeSilva, a 21-year-old genetics student, thought the group needed some structure and better sense of purpose. Without that, he feared the group would fall apart.
So DeSilva got the group together and, after some discernment, the group decided to become a service ministry. It has been serving meals at the Light House Mission two Mondays a month since January, when the Pentecostal Church launched the soup kitchen on the corner of 96th Street and 103A Avenue.
They serve soup and sandwiches at the mission for at least 200 street people. To satisfy their large clientele, Trish and another girl make at least 20 gallons of soup and turn 20 to 30 loaves of bread into sandwiches every time they go to the Light House Mission. Most food donations come from St. Charles Parish, which group members say has been "extremely supportive."
The FROG Squad is also active within the parish, providing music at the Saturday 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. Masses every second week. Members are also active as Eucharistic ministers, readers, lectors, bread breakers and other ministries.
In September the group reintroduced itself to the parish "just to let them know that we never left, that we are still here and still active," said Trish, a 24-year-old teacher who now stays home to take care of her two-month-old baby, Max.
"We want to show everybody that going to World Youth Day was more than just a trip. It was a pilgrimage and a spiritual journey and that's why we changed our name when we came back.
"We take the pope's call to us to be a light to the world very seriously."
- Cory Roffey
"We call ourselves the FROG Squad because we fully rely on God in everything we do and we are a service ministry group now, which means that everything we do is God's work through service."
During the Toronto youth festival the pope said, "Go out and serve others," Trish recalled. "That was one of his big messages and so we really took that to heart and decided to use our group and our talents to serve our parish and our community in as many ways as possible."
"We take the pope's call to us to be a light to the world very seriously," said Cory, 25. "In his homily at the Mass on Sunday (during World Youth Day) the pope had said to us, 'You are our hope, our young people are our hope.' And that was the one statement that really stuck with us. I think that's what really drives us and that's what really inspired us, that this one man put so much faith in us to carry on the mission of Christ and to be the light of Christ."
DeSilva said what really stuck with him was the pope's call to young people to take the Holy Spirit back to the four corners of the earth and share it. "That personally connected with me, being able to spread the Holy Spirit like wildfire."
The group recently began fundraising for WYD 2005 in Germany but has decided that anything they do for fundraising must be an act of service. This Christmas, for example, they will run a Christmas camp in the parish, a service for parents who need day care. The group also launched a Hire-a-Pilgrim campaign, a service where the community can hire members of the group to do odds and ends around the house.
"We paint fences and we wash windows and mow lawns, we do all kinds of things and people give us donations," explained Trish. "So we just try to do everything we do as an act of service and love." The group estimates it needs approximately $30,000 to get its 15 members to Germany.
St. Charles Parish is fully behind the FROG Squad, said pastoral associate Denise Mageau.
"I think (having) this group is great because it gives an opportunity for the young people in our parish to get involved and helping out, you know, being Christ-like to others," she said. "We are very happy with them and we support them because they are fantastic."