Fulfilling the mission at Love Begins Here Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Aug. 09, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
lbh 2018
Love Begins Here missionary Annie Fonfara from Sun Prairie scrapes paint off a garage in Berlin during the local diocesan mission trip’s recent week in Berlin. To view or purchase photos, go to www.madison (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

BERLIN — If you happened to visit Berlin — population 5,000 — during the week of July 22 to 27, you might have seen one of a few things.

• You might have seen new friends talking together and getting to know each other.

• You might have seen teenagers helping out a city resident with work around his house.

• You might have seen some young people giving their time and talents to grow closer to God.

• You also may have seen a scene reminiscent of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, although it was white paint instead of “whitewash,” and it was Chuck’s picnic table instead of Aunt Polly’s fence.

No matter what you saw, you’d be right, and they actually were all part of the very same thing.

“It’s about them growing in the virtues that work entails,” said Love Begins Here (LBH) car group leader Alicia Zepp.

“It’s been really powerful to see how well they bond and how their faith is being strengthened through the service that they’re doing.”

A life-changing week

Love Begins Here is an apostolate of the Diocese of Madison Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

Now in its 10th year, it provides youth with an opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ in a life-changing way through weeklong local mission trips where they live in community and continue God’s work on earth.

Teens and leaders from all over the diocese came together in Berlin, one of eight such weeks during the summer for groups in middle school and high school, each hosted at a different parish in the Diocese of Madison.

The program is directed by Lindsay Finn with the assistance of Meghan Bonham. “It is beautiful to see how the work continues to transform hearts throughout our parishes,” they said.

One car group, a group of a few teens, with one or more adult leaders who are together as a group all week, spent some of their week visiting the elderly, doing cleanup work at the host parish, All Saints in Berlin, and helping a local man, Chuck Kelm, with some work around his home, including said painting of picnic tables in his backyard.

“I think if I were alone, it would be really boring, but I have a team, so it makes it more fun because we’re talking at the same time while we’re working,” said Luisa Schloesser, a first-year LBH missionary, who will be a sophomore at St. Ambrose Academy in Madison this fall.

“I also enjoy [the people we help] being so thankful at the end. It makes me feel really good about myself,” she added.

Berlin High School sophomore Helena Buttke is a second-year missionary embodying the LBH spirit, doing works of love for others at home.

“It doesn’t feel any different,” Buttke said about staying “home”.

She added, “I’m away from home, but I’m still in my hometown . . . we’re still doing the same work as if I were somewhere else.”

Understanding the mission

With a mission of putting neighbors first, doing small things with great love, and being missionary disciples, many groups head right into their work for the week with faith on their side.

“My job is easy, and they understand the mission, and they jump right in,” said car group leader Brad Grobbel.

“When we do this, we realize there’s nothing more important than being side by side, relationally influenced by Christ with these kids,” he added.

One of Grobbel’s car group members, Allison Joyce, a third-year missionary from Oregon, said the experience is “fun.”

“I like the opportunity to help out in the community, and it’s a good experience to meet new friends,” Joyce said.

Will Maastricht, a fourth-year missionary from Sun Prairie, said while most of his work has been weeding, he found his faith growing as the week continued.

“It’s kind of cool to see everyone else’s faith. Being around people of faith helps you understand more about Christianity and what God means to you,” he said.

Faith and fun

The LBH missionaries have plenty of time for other activities, too.

On the spiritual side, there is daily Mass, daily Rosary, daily prayer time, grace before meals, and weekly Confession and Adoration.

And, on the fun side, there are coffee hours, swimming, games, and whole community sharing.

For more information on Love Begins Here in the Diocese of Madison, go to

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