Eileen Jevis | Staff writer
Mother Teresa’s quote, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love,” is what inspired teens at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Baldwinsville to give back to their community.
In 2020, when young parishioners were looking for a way to help others, Father Joseph O’Connor encouraged the teens to volunteer to help with multiple projects and organizations that needed support. As a result, “Small Things, Great Love” was established. Nick Calaprico is the coordinator for high school faith formation at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. He said Father O’Connor wanted the program to be a learning experience. “Father explained to the teens that they shouldn’t do nice things for others because it makes them feel good, but to do them out of an abundance of love for Christ and the love he has for us.”
During the weeklong program, teens from St. Mary of the Assumption/St. Augustine’s in Baldwinsville and St. Rose of Lima Parish in North Syracuse joined the students from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton to begin each day in daily prayer and Mass.
After Mass, the students spent 12-hour days helping make sandwiches for Assumption’s food pantry and landscaping and painting at Christ the King Retreat House. The students also worked at Joseph’s House for Women. “We did everything from sorting baby clothes to hauling wheelbarrows of woodchips to the playground to create a safe play area for the residents,” explained Ava Rosier, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Rosier said that at the end of a long day, the love for Christ seemed to give them fresh energy. “I also looked forward to the evening because we would come together to eat dinner and go to adoration,” she said.
This is the second year siblings Colin and Francesca Smith participated in Small Things, Great Love. They are parishioners at St. Rose of Lima. Colin said he met a lot of good friends who inspired him to do better. “The best part of the program was the fact that everyone there shared the same beliefs and wants,” he said. “We all have a strong love for God.”
Francesca Smith agreed that the experience taught the participants about faith and friendship. “My inspiration came from those around me,” she said. “Usually, when I have to do something difficult, I drag my feet. But when it came to this, the positivity and gratitude I received really gave me the motivation I needed.” Francesca said everyone worked hard and helped each other. “And we developed long-lasting relationships with the other teens as a result of that.”
Rosier said that throughout the week she learned the importance of serving and why it’s beneficial to her faith. “By being so emptied and out of energy,” she said, “we turned to Jesus in prayer, asking him for more strength to serve. … I learned to serve and love without boundaries while growing closer to Jesus. I learned that love doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. Love can be shown through simple daily acts of service and kindness.”
“The week meant a lot not only for the teens, but for everyone involved,” said Calaprico. Those who had never prayed the rosary found peace in learning it, while others realized the importance of incorporating more prayer into their lives. Calaprico said the teens were taught that their strength comes from the Lord.
When Calaprico was asked to reflect on the week, he turned to Matthew 17:20: “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
“That’s what I got to bear witness to this week,” he said. “I saw God work through these teens to move a mountain (of mulch) and it was done with such joy and happiness.” Calaprico said the teens were committed, determined and reverent with everything they did during the week. “I can only hope I can be like them every day moving forward.”