As the official start to this fifth year of Love Begins Here is about to dawn on us in a few, short days, I find myself thinking back on that inaugural summer, and in particular, our very first week. We were mighty green back on June 21, 2009, as those 20-something teens joined us along with a handful of enthusiastic, willing chaperones, ready to embrace the adventure of a local mission trip. All in all, it was one incredibly beautiful and truly life changing week.
One of the memories that is impressed most firmly in my mind is of the noon Mass we attended with Msgr. Ganshert at the Bishop O’Connor Center. When he heard that there were youth there from Love Begins Here, which is inspired by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, he centered his homily around her example and did so much through his words to inspire us as missionaries. As he preached, he directed our attention to the north side of the chapel, where you can gaze upon an incredible stained glass image of our beautiful patroness.
It was an inspiring moment and one that really set the stage for how important she would be in the journey of the past four years.
While we were focused on that Bl. Mother Teresa window, I did not think to spend much time looking to the south, to gaze upon the window there. To be honest, at that time the window, dedicated to the Apostolate to the Handicapped, did not mean a great deal to me, as I did not understand the scope and importance of their work.
Years later, having worked with nearly 700 teens and completed over 16,000 hours of service to our communities, I look at this chapel and these windows in a much different way.
I have realized that Love Begins Here, Bl. Mother Teresa and the Apostolate all share the exact same mission – to spread the love of Christ into ones home, community and throughout the world through acts of love and charity. However, our connection now runs even deeper than that.
This past spring, Love Begins Here was a humble recipient of a very generous grant from the Apostolate to the Handicapped. This grant is helping to make possible the continued success of Love Begins Here, by helping to support the staff that runs it, the missionaries who cannot afford to join us otherwise and the tools we need to keep in stock and up to date, in order to complete our work effectively.
In light of this grant, on this day and into the future, we are grateful for many things. First, for the great legacy of Msgr. Campion, the founder of the Apostolate, which is one of service and dedication to those who our society far too often neglects and does not remember to love. Also, for the generosity of so many who have contributed to the Apostolate over the past many years, making this grant possible. And certainly, for Father Bakke, the current director of the Apostolate, for investing not only in Love Begins Here (and opening wide the doors to his Parish to host us during the summer), but also in me, beginning in the months when Love Begins Here was an unnamed thought and a seemingly far off dream. Lastly, for all of those brave and enthusiastic missionaries who have joined us through the years and those who have yet to come; without you, this work would not be done and our little corner of the world in the Diocese of Madison would be a bit less bright.
Please join us in saying a prayer of thanksgiving and ask God to abundantly bless Love Begins Here and all of those who support our work, especially the Apostolate to the Handicapped.
Here’s to 5, 10 and many more successful summers.
– Lindsay, LBH Mission Director