Young adults (from left to right) Ivan Abrego, Amecia Harrelson, Erik Albano, and Leo Lopez clear some brush in Moore, Oklahoma. The Young Adult Ministry Office hosted the FIAT (Faith in Action Together) Mission in Moore, the site of last year’s massive tornado which killed 25 people and carved a 17-mile path of destruction. Twelve young adults from the diocese took part in helping the volunteer organization, Serve Moore, continue restoration efforts in the community from May 12-17.
When Celi Acosta heard about the Diocese of Fort Worth’s first Faith in Action Together (FIAT) mission trip, she hesitated about signing up. It’s not that she didn’t want to go; she, like many other young adults, just had a busy, stressful schedule ahead of her.
But in the end, the University of Texas at Arlington math student didn’t let that keep her from joining 12 other young adults on the diocese’s first FIAT mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma, from May 12-17.
“It was all starting to be too much and getting really stressful,” Acosta, 21, said of her routine. “So I thought going away somewhere I could just think about God and helping people would help me out. And it really did. I’m really glad I [went]. It helped me get my head straight and remember that God is always there to help in the chaos.”
Sponsored by the diocesan Office of Young Adult Ministry and the University Catholic Community at UTA, the trip provided the group with an opportunity to help Moore, Oklahoma residents continue their recovery efforts from the devastating F5 tornado that took 25 lives and flattened 1,100 homes in May of last year.
During the week, the small group took on a handful of building and renovation projects. But it wasn’t all work, explained diocesan Young Adult Ministry Associate Director Jeff Hedglen, who led the trip. Daily Masses, Night Prayer, Adoration, group reflections on Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, a trip to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, Theology on Tap in Oklahoma City, and social time (including a trip to Turner Falls) bookended the seven-hour workdays.
Hedglen said he modeled the jam-packed and diverse schedule upon his popular Camp Fort Worth (CFW) program, a week-long event for teens. Like CFW, FIAT focuses on the elements of deepening faith, putting it into action, and experiencing togetherness, but brings it to the young adult audience in the form of an affordable and accessible mission trip experience.
Matthew Moreno mixes concrete at one of the FIAT team’s work sites on May 13.
“Our faith really comes alive when we put it into action,” Hedglen said of his mission trip. “And we put it into action by many ways: By going to Mass, by praying together, by serving together.”
The young adults certainly put their faith into action by helping five different families affected by last year’s tornado. Over the course of four consecutive workdays, they put up two fences, dug all the post holes for a third fence, mowed lawns, and picked up several pounds worth of tornado debris from one older couple’s yard.
But the mission work benefited more than just the affected families, who expressed deep gratitude to the FIAT team, Hedglen said.
“We’re in a world where we’re focused in on ourselves so much,” Hedglen explained. “So taking some time away from our normal environments to focus on some other people, and put our hearts, efforts, and energy into somebody else’s life, enriches our own lives.”
“I was able to feel like I was kind of on a retreat and focus only on God, only on helping people,” she said. “It just really helps calm your mind, calm your soul. It’s a great experience to give yourself to somebody else and be completely there to help somebody else.”
Working hard to help others, praying, and having fun together brought the young adults closer to God but also closer to each other, Hedglen and Acosta said.
UTA student Celi Acosta carries a fencepost during a project to rebuild a fence in Moore.
That was certainly the case for Will Gough, 19, an accounting major at UTA. Although he’d attended Masses sponsored by the University Catholic Commuity on campus all semester, he had never participated in other campus ministry events and didn’t know anybody going on the trip.
“I really enjoyed it. I really liked the people there,” Gough said. “I’ve only been going to Sunday Mass but because of the people who went, I plan on being more involved with the campus ministry. This whole experience has made me want to be more involved in my faith.
“Going out and praying together with a group who all share the same faith — I haven’t done that before,” he continued.
As for Acosta, who had never been on a mission trip before, she couldn’t stop talking about her experience when she got home to her family. Asked if she will go next year, she answers quickly this time.
“I already know right now, I’m definitely going next year,” she said. “I would love to keep doing this.”
For a moment during the second day of our mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma it felt like we were in the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar, in which the protagonists, Stanley Yelnats and Zero, are forced to dig holes at camp in order to build “character.”
When Celi Acosta heard about the Diocese of Fort Worth’s first Faith in Action Together (FIAT) mission trip, she hesitated about signing up. It’s not that she didn’t want to go; she, like many other young adults, just had a busy, stressful schedule ahead of her. But in the end, the University of Texas at Arlington math student didn’t let that keep her from joining 12 other young adults on the diocese’s first FIAT mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma, from May 12-17.