The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock
C2SI leader Josh Salman, campus minister at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, gives a talk to youth participants July 10. (Collin Gallimore photo) Seminarians Sam Stengel (left) of Paris and Jackson Nichols (right) of Pocahontas lead a discussion with their small group July 11. (Collin Gallimore photo) C2SI participants distribute food during a cookout at Jericho Way in Little Rock July 11. (Collin Gallimore photo)
C2SI participants listen to the journey of Jericho Way clients during a cookout July 11. (Collin Gallimore photo) Angel Martinez of St. James Church in Searcy describes his experiences with his small group after the cookout at Jericho Way July 11. (Collin Gallimore photo) Mora Boyd of St. Boniface Church in Fort Smith (left), Zach Ellis of Our Lady of the Holy Souls in Little Rock and Parker Vail of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock prepare to lead the C2SI participants in prayer on July 11. (Collin Gallimore photo)

Teens put their social teachings boots on the ground

Teens experience Catholic social issues through service learning

Published: July 28, 2023      
Collin Gallimore
Seminarian Jackson Nichols of Pocahontas and junior Zach Ellis of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock listen to what Jericho Way clients have to say during their cookout July 11.

Catholic teens spent a week in July learning what the Catholic Church teaches about social issues.

C2SI (Catholic Charities Summer Institute) is a weeklong retreat held at St. John Center in Little Rock to help youth from incoming freshmen to just-graduated seniors better understand the Catholic view of some hot-button issues. The teens also have opportunities throughout the week to serve at work sites in the Little Rock area.

Diocesan youth ministry director Liz Tingquist said she was happy C2SI was organized July 10-14 for the first time since 2019. 

“Your parents are the first teachers of the faith as they should be,” Tingquist said. “But to the kids, I said, ‘We're going to challenge you this week to start developing your own sense of social morality. And it may get you uncomfortable, or it may be opposed to the views of your parents. This is an opportunity at your age to start developing your own sense of what's right when it comes to these social justice issues. So we're going to have some discussions, and it's okay for you guys to disagree. But it's going to be civil, and we're going to talk about it.’”

One of the work sites this year was Jericho Way Day Resource Center. In addition to hosting a cookout, C2SI youth also cleaned the building. 

“Jericho Way is always a great work site,” Tingquist said. “That was hard work. The kids deep-cleaned that place. They cleaned commodes and showers that hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. They shampooed carpets, and we did a lot of stuff there. It really gets young people working who've never done anything like that before, and they all had great attitudes.”

Volunteering at Jericho Way was meaningful to rising senior Parker Vail, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock. 

“Going into C2SI, I just expected that we were going to be doing some boring service work and that the talks would be boring too,” he said. “My expectations changed immediately on Tuesday when we went to Jericho Way. … It really showed me that these people that are so looked down upon in our society are still people. And what especially surprised me was how positive all the people there were despite what they’re all going through.”

C2SI shifts its attention each year. This year, the program centered on food and housing poverty and how they’re connected, as well as Catholic civil discourse. 

Teens participated in a housing simulation where each student was assigned a different character and had to visit stations related to Section 8 housing, an apartment building, public housing and a women's shelter to find a home.

“People were getting frustrated,” Tingquist said. “The kids said they felt like they were their characters and were getting desperate. Nobody explains how you get housing. The key is, if you want public housing, you have to get a voucher from Section 8 first. Well, nobody knew that so nobody went to Section 8 until almost the last day and then the lines were so long, and they couldn't get served. So I think that was a very good exercise for them to get through, and we had a great conversation afterward.”

C2SI is different from other ministries the youth office offers, such as Search and the State Youth Convention. 

“C2SI is focused on giving young people experiences they probably haven't had before, like going into homeless camps, meeting people, going to areas where there's a lot of immigrants and visiting with them,” Tinquist said. “It's a very serious week, so it's important that only people who want to come actually come.”

C2SI participants said the week touched their lives in a personal way. 

“The main thing I learned from the week was that the people experiencing homelessness are just everyday people like you and me,” Vail said. “They have human dignity and deserve to be treated well.

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