SANFORD---"It makes you feel good when you are able to give and make a difference in someone's life in a small way.”
The words of Jacob Guillemette, a high schooler from St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford, capture the genuine purpose of the Matthew 25:35 Meals being hosted by teens at both St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish and Holy Spirit Parish in Wells and Kennebunk.
On the second Tuesday of each month, the two parish groups come together to prepare and serve dinner to hundreds of community members in need at the St. Ignatius parish hall on 25 Riverside Avenue in Sanford. All are welcome to attend the free dinners with the next event planned for Tuesday, May 14, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Offering the monthly meals is a way to teach the teens about the importance of service, particularly the Bible verse Matthew 25:35 (“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, . . . “).
“My hope for these fantastic teens is that their experience in serving at these meals plants within them a deep desire to always be involved in service,” said Carolyn Houston, director of faith formation at Holy Spirit Parish.
The dinners, which began in November of 2017, have involved over 30 teens serving upwards of 100 meals per event.
“Afterwards we all have supper and help clean up together,” said Emma Perrault, a teen from St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
"I enjoy being with my friends but, at the same time, I am doing something good for others," said Colby White, a teen from Holy Spirit.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish provides the venue, while Holy Spirit Parish supplies the food.
“Bakers from both parishes have created beautiful and delicious desserts for the guests each month,” added Houston.
The meals have been a wonderful opportunity for Catholic teens in Sanford, Kennebunk, and Wells to get to know each other, but that is far from the only reward.
“Some people come there for food, some people come for fellowship, and some come just to have meal out. It’s so enjoyable to see,” said Henry Kindler, another teen from Holy Spirit.
“I enjoy serving the community and seeing the smiles on people faces as they indulge in a nice hot meal,” said Perrault.
"It's very humbling to know that we are helping to serve God's people,” said Tommy Guillemette of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. “It's nice to be able to come together with another local youth group and work together for the same cause and have a good time doing it. It's also rewarding to get to know the people that we are serving every month and to interact with them also."
The guests also get more out of the meals than the tasty food. They get to see the present and future of the Church in action.
“This service of the teens teaches how to be the Body of Christ and how to see Christ in others,” said Houston. “The guests often remark on how joyful, attentive, and helpful the teens are while they are serving meals, cleaning up, and welcoming them.”
And as the crowds increase in size, so does the collective passion of the teens to serve.
"It's great to see how much it has grown in the last year and to see how appreciative everyone in the community is,” said Emma White, a teen from Holy Spirit Parish. “I look forward to continuing it!”
For more information about the Matthew 25:35 Meals, contact Holy Spirit Parish at (207) 646-5605.