Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

EAST HARTFORD – The Catholic Communities of East Hartford North (CCEHN) Youth Group, composed of the clustered parishes of St. Rose, St. Mary and St. Isaac Jogues, participated recently in what members described as a life-changing mission trip in Reading, Pa.

The 14 youth, ranging from high school freshmen to college seniors, and four adults joined over 300 adults and youth from 19 other states during the last week of June.

The combined groups formed 52 work crews that worked at 49 different sites, helping elderly, handicapped and low-income residents with home repair projects. The projects included exterior and interior painting as well as repairs to fencing, porches and flooring.

The mission trip was organized by the Group Cares ( which has been running work camps throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America since 1977.

The CCEHN Youth Group called itself the "God Connection 18" to remind itself of the trip’s spiritual theme, taken from the Gospel of St. John. John 15:5 reads: "Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

Tony J. Matta, the youth group’s director, said the focus was on connecting, first to God, then to the residents whom they served, third to their crews and finally to their youth group family.

The CCEHN Youth Group describes itself in five words, which participants wore on their T-shirts during the mission: fun, faith, love, serve and pray. The mission trip was designed as an opportunity for the group to experience all five.

"I’ve returned tired, achy, full of cuts and bruises and yet deeply fulfilled, joyful and at peace with God and the world," said Mr. Matta. "Every day, we started with morning devotions, went to work at our sites, broke for crew devotions, continued working and closed with evening and youth group devotions. I came to realize that the more I prayed, the more work I accomplished and the harder I worked, the better I prayed."

For Cathy Matta, Mr. Matta’s daughter and a college junior, this was a second mission trip. She spoke June 11 at a recent social justice conference.

At the conference, she said that in addition to helping others, the young people experience changed lives in several ways: "[The trips] build confidence as well as a sense of pride and satisfaction in a job well done," she said. "These trips are opportunities to witness poverty, injustice, pain, suffering; and, more important, to be moved to do something about [them]."

Jada Furlow, a high school freshman, was on her first mission with her brother Jordan, a senior. Ms. Furlow said that she now thinks of God as her best friend, to whom she can go to every time she needs help with life’s problems.

Jordan said he realized that with God, he can be stronger and a better person.

Ally Dumphy, a college sophomore on her second trip, said: "This experience was so blessed. It’s one of the things I’m absolutely certain of in my life."