Once again, a team of dedicated Catholic college students is heading to Alaska for a summer of spreading the Good News.
“Father Michael Shields ran a missionary team of college kids in the archdiocese last summer,” said Ed Burke, a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Anchorage Archdiocese. “Last year’s group did so much good work that we wanted to have something similar.”
Matthew Beck, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Anchorage Archdiocese, took the project under his wing, and with the help of Burke, a missionary team of two men and two women was assembled.
Burke is completing a semester in Rome before heading to the Alaska Catholic Youth Conference (ACYC) in June where he will be part of the team.
They’ll begin their summer by helping out at ACYC, June 2-7, and will journey down to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Soldotna, spend time on the Kenai Peninsula, work with vacation Bible schools at St. Michael Church in Palmer and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Anchorage, and attend the Young Adult Conference at St. Benedict Church. They may pitch in with some archival work at the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center, and basically be open to whatever comes, said Beck.
In addition to Burke, two of the other four spent spring semester studying in Rome.
Mary Carlson, in Rome as a junior at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, said she is part of a group at St. Thomas called the Catholic Studies Leadership Interns, and that’s how she heard about the mission trip.
“When I heard about this opportunity, something within me clicked,” Carlson said. “I had promised to give the summer to the Lord and this opportunity couldn’t have been more perfect. I reached out to Ed to learn more and signed on for the summer.”
Michael Maloney will also be heading north after a semester in Rome. A fellow seminarian with his friend Burke, Maloney is finishing his third year with St. John Vianney College Seminary.
A lifelong Minnesotan, Maloney said, “I’ve done missionary work before, working with refugees from Burma in the Twin Cities, and also I’ve gone on a couple mission trips with the seminary.”
He’s looking forward to spending some time outside during an Alaskan summer, and has even signed up to run in the Mayor’s marathon.
Monica Osterbauer is a student at the University of Minnesota pursuing a degree in family social science with a minor in child psychology.
“I found out about this opportunity through my friends Michael Maloney and Ed Burke,” she said. “My goals for the summer are to grow in openness for opportunities to serve. I enjoy meeting new people and entering into their lives.”
All four young adults are heading north with an openness to do whatever needs to be done to make the summer a success.
“I have no idea what to expect,” Osterbauer said, “except for spontaneous activities, service projects, opportunities to pray, new faces, and exploration. I basically love adventuring and seeing new places. Being the oldest of eight children, I love crazy, dysfunctional family life. I think I’ll gain a new perspective staying in host homes and I’m looking forward to this.”
Burke said he looks forward to working in several parishes and helping with catechesis for youth. He credits ACYC with making an impact on his own life.
“ACYC and the witness of people who live radically for Jesus made a huge impact on my life as a teenager,” he said, “It will be a huge blessing to ‘pay it forward.’”
Carlson is a biology major with plans to be a physicians’ assistant. Along with that course work, however, she’s minoring in philosophy and Catholic Studies, and has a personal goal for the summer of getting to know Jesus more.
It was her Catholic studies minor that took her to Rome, where she has lived in community with a group of 30 as she experienced the famous historical sites and churches of the Eternal City.
“I hope to walk away from this summer with a sense of peace that we followed (God’s) will and did his work,” Carlson said. “I hope that we are able to touch hearts and bring those we encounter closer to Christ. If just one person is brought deeper into relationship with him, than our work will have paid off.”
Beck said the missionary trip is financed on a shoestring. The four will have their airplane tickets paid, along with “a very minimal stipend.” The team is relying on parishes and friendly Alaskans to provide housing and meals.