Diocese of Ohio Mission Group Visits Franklin, PA

St. John’s, Franklin was host to a lively group last week: a mission team consisting of 29 youth and 9 adults from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, who were in town to assist Mustard Seed Ministries of Venango County (an ecumenical service organization focused on home repair and transportation for those in need), Emmaus Haven (a transitional housing program), and Catholic Rural Ministries with various service projects in the greater Franklin area. Kids camped out in the parish hall basement by night and split into groups to tackle jobs ranging from yard work and housecleaning to building a utility shed from the ground up during the day.

Mary Anthony, director of religious education at St. Paul’s in Medina, Ohio, and one of the mission trip coordinators, took some time out from her work to talk a bit about the kids and the week’s projects.

“There are kids ages 12-19 representing six different parishes from the diocese this year,” she said. “We started coming here back in 2010 when Mother Holly was here. One of the priests from one of our churches in the diocese had found – it used to be called Helping Hands – because Mother Holly started the program. So we came and we really liked it, and this is our fifth year here.”  [Editor’s Note: Mother Holly Davis, who was priest at St. John’s in 2010, began the Helping Hands ministry during her time at the church. It has since been taken over by Pastor Randy Powell of the First Baptist Church in Franklin and renamed Mustard Seed Ministries.]

She went on to say that each year the mission coordinators come up with a list of potential areas to visit, then allow the youth to make the final decision on where they’ll be serving. “I like getting them out seeing different areas and working with different dioceses,” she continued. “We usually give them a couple of ideas, and the juniors and seniors pick. Some kids had been here and told the other kids what it was like. Deacon Dave (Betz) was here and the kids love him.” She turned and pointed out a young man who was visiting with the group during the picnic St. John’s hosted for them on Tuesday evening. “This is one of my former youth that came with us, and now he’s married and lives here in Franklin.” 

Mary’s crew of teens spent the week in Seneca assembling a shed that will be used to store lawnmowers and other equipment for the new Family Service and Children’s Aid Society PPC shelter.  “They’ve literally framed the whole thing top to bottom,” she said. “We started with 2x4s, now we’ve got all these walls and they’ll put them together on site.”  Another group assisted with the cleanup of a building that had previously been a Catholic church, but is now being repurposed as a homeless shelter through Emmaus Haven in Oil City. Deacon Dave Betz of St. John’s is the contact person for Emmaus Haven, and he shared that, while there has been a homeless shelter in Franklin for three years, the former church in Oil City has only recently been purchased and approved as a shelter. Both buildings are intended to house single men and women in homeless situations – definitely needed, since Emmaus Haven gets up to 97 calls a month for people in need of shelter in Venango County. 

This group of hardworking young people certainly were the definition of mission this week: going out into the world and spreading their faith through acts of service. Even more, they were loving their neighbors in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania as themselves. As Mary Anthony said, “We’ve gone some other places in between, but we decided we’d come back. We’ve formed some really good relationships with the people at St. John’s.”

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’  Mark 12:30-31