God’s Fingerprints

June 6-11, 2021 High School Mission Trip to Harlan, Kentucky





This past week we hosted a high school group of St. Mary & John the Baptist Parishes from the Green Bay area join us on mission this past week in Harlan, KY. Harlan is known as one of the poorest cities in the United States. Due to the decline of the coal mining industry, many folks have lost jobs over the past few years. The parish has the largest food distribution center in Harlan that gives out groceries to families twice a month. The priest, Fr. Terrance is the only employee for the 3 parishes in Harlan County. He was filled with joy to have 21 young people step in as his family this past week and help relieve his burden as we came to be of service to support him and all the work to be done. Each day the group had Daily Mass, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, participated in small group discussions, praise and worship and listened to a formation talk from one of the CMT Mission Leaders on our theme from Pope Francis’s encyclical “Fratellit Tutii”.




CMT Kentucky Mission Leader Team:
Fran, Jacob & Megan





I arrived 3 days before the group to get everything prepared. This time required a lot of prep work, since we don’t have our full time 2 summer program teams because we don’t have a full summer of back to back mission trips. However, I am so grateful that I have a few mission leaders helping me with each trip. At the end of the email I will include a link so you can learn about the rest of our amazing summer mission leaders. Unfortunately, this means, I am wearing 4 hats and doing more prep work than usual, hence you might have received a text of my brutal honesty of struggle in reaching out for prayers. The blessing is that I am getting to see first hand all of the prep work that goes into these mission trips, so I can most effectively train and prep our 2022 CMT Mission Leaders for next summer. In addition, I’m growing out of self-reliance and learning to ask for help along the way. 




This mission trip prep was difficult in finding a contractor to work with us. However, when I arrived in KY,  I went to the local hardware store and asked if they had someone they could recommend. They connected me with Marshall but when I reached out to him, he said it would be a couple weeks from now since his schedule was full. I told him that it was only for this week to put a group of 20 young people to work for the mission trip. By some miracle he changed his mind and took assessments of St. Stephen and worked with us throughout the week. The other chaperones came to find out he was a former coal miner and has found joy in helping people repair houses, even though he has been offered better jobs in VA, he finds joy in being of service to his people where his grandchildren also live. It still makes no sense why he helped us, but the teens enjoyed working with him. He saw that the teens were doing good and he wanted to be a part of it. He said, “God works in mysterious ways.”



The basement of the church was flooding, so we were able to build a roof over the outside stairwell, repair the falling apart bricks of the foundation, fill in patches of concrete, scrape out old drywall, apply new mudding and a fresh coat of paint. We  also deep cleaned the basement, reorganized the tool shed, cleaned out the guest house lodging, yard work, painted tables for the preschool children, and packed food for families for the food distribution.
I asked Fr. to share with me a list of families that are in most need materially. One day I snuck away for a quick house visit. I went to a house that was falling apart. The 3yo, 4yo, and 6 yo kids were so happy to see me. I ran around outside with them and we laughed so hard that their dad started taking pictures of them and playing with them too. It dawned on me that they probably don’t usually do this. This family has no running water and walks out to a neighborhood spigot to collect water. All of the kids’ teeth were rotting out and they had holes in their clothes. I asked the mom if there was anything I could bring them. She simply said, laundry soap. I kept asking to see what else they needed.  I felt like I was in a 3rd world country visiting this family. I was amazed at how much joy I could bring this family by just showing up. The kids chased me out when I left and the mom called me after to make sure I was coming back and to share how much her kids loved me. On the last day, we brought them a bunch of groceries, new clothes and items they asked for. They were so happy to play with the bubbles. I wanted to do more, but we were short on time because of all the work projects. And I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough work to do!  🤦

We had 2 seminarians on the trip, so for daily Mass, they were able to give reflections before the final blessing. I felt very supported by my fellow mission leaders:  Fran, our worship leader and Jacob CMT veteran and seminarian.  I can see how Fr. Terrance struggles to be all things to all people. I shared with my teammate, Jacob how I wanted to do everything for everyone on this trip, to spend quality time with the teens, and with the families, and prepare everything well in the background, but I had to accept that I am not God, and I can’t to it all, and I needed to ask others for help. He shared with me his perspective: rather than aspiring to do it all, he is just grateful that he can play some little part in making Jesus’s love alive in the world. I was encouraged and put a peace by his humble perspective.




Sunday- FALSE SECURITIES. In Fratelli Tutii, Pope Francis said, “As I was writing this letter, the Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly erupted, exposing our false securities.” I shared about how when my insecurities are rubbed, it is easy for me to isolate, put up walls, and to act out selfishly to make myself feel better. However, it is only when I put down the walls, become honest with God & others, that I find true peace and security in being loved as I am.




Monday- A SENSE OF BELONGING. Fran shared about how she has found her sense of belonging and building her relationship with Christ by God’s invitation to use her gifts not to glorify herself, but to glorify Christ. We were all moved by how she shared about her personal prayer life with us and the ways she finds God’s voice.




Tuesday- DIALOGUE AND FRIENDSHIPS. Jacob opened up to us about the places where he feels convicted to grow in loving his family and friends, and Jesus better. This set us up for a night of Adoration and Confession. Did you know the words Adoration in Latin means, “mouth to mouth” and Reconciliation in Latin means, “Eyelash to eyelash.” Some of the teens expressed how much they enjoyed Adoration and having an encounter with Jesus.




Wednesday-FRATERNAL FUTURE. Fran shared a personal struggle that we Catholics can face loving people who have morals different from us. She invited us to remain in loving as Jesus loves us, considering all the sinners that did not love Jesus, yet how He loved them anyway. “Imagine how much it hurts him when we don’t open our hearts to Him,” she said. Even if others’ lifestyles are different, I hope we can all be a soft welcoming place for others to open their hearts to be received as God’s beloved child.




Thursday-SERVICE OF THE COMMON GOOD. We had a bonfire outside and I shared how we as missionaries often want to change the world, but nobody wants to change the toilet paper roll. 🤣 We find meaning and purpose in life, not by being selfish, but by making a gift of self in daily life. But first, we must let God love us. There is a reason Jesus first says, “As the Father has loved Me, so I love you” in John 15 and then later, “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you” in John 20. After, we sang praise and worship, roasted smores, and everyone went around sharing their God moments for the week.




I was very moved at the sense of family built between this group, the chaperones that care so much pastoraly for these teens. I am humbled to see and witness such a fraternity and sense of belonging. These teens have deep faith! Honestly, I wish they were my high school friends! I was so moved by their liveliness and love for the Lord. Our contractor noticed Fr. Terrance actually needed a new roof and new driveway. The day we left the mission trip, I got a call from a catholic high school that wants to come to KY in October! God is answering prayers quickly. Our contractor, Marshall will have a ton of work for the high school group in October.



View Documentary featuring Fr. Terrance and the Ministry at St. Stephen
Learn more about our CMT 2021 Summer Mission Leaders
Support the ministry or rebuilding of St. Stephen by sending a check:


2536 SOUTH U.S. Highway 421

Harlan, KY 40831

Viva Cristo Rey,