St. Anthony Messenger

April 2014

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St A n t h o n y M e s s e n g e r . o r g 6 ❘ A p r i l 2 0 1 4 t's Thursday afternoon, and The Student Leaders' Von Nieda Park Task Force in Camden, New Jersey, is meeting. The group, is made up of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students from St. Anthony of Padua School, as well as students from nearby St. Cecilia and LEAP Academy. The group is discussing ways to improve their neighborhood. The major focus of their work is to make the local Von Nieda Park a safer and more enjoyable place for all to enjoy. Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor at St. Anthony Parish, is part of that task force. He says the idea came out of a Civic Engage- ment class during the 2011 summer session of St. Anthony of Padua School. Student leaders meet weekly after school and choose issues to address that are important, chal- lenging, and doable—using the principles of community organizing. So far, the student leaders have improved the park with new trash and recycling bins, fencing around the park playground, and new basketball nets. They recently held a community event, "Un-Dark the Park," where 250 people came with flashlights to show the need for lights in the park to make it safer after dark. They received a commit- ment from the county to put over $200,000 of new lighting in the park. "The students find out who has the power to make positive changes in those areas, and invite those county or city officials, and other interested persons to monthly meet- ings in the community center," says Father Jud. Then once they convince the officials and get commitments from them, the stu- dents follow up at future meetings and with e-mails and phone calls to make sure the officials fulfill their promises. In addition to their work to improve Von Nieda Park, the task force's efforts also go deeper. The students involved say they want to build power and use it for something good. The biggest changes, according to the leaders, are not in the park, but in them- selves. They now have confidence to speak in public, confidence to chair meetings, and confidence to call public officials. Father Jud says he was most proud "when one of our eighth graders said on a local radio broadcast that she is doing this work to improve her community because she feels Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM Working Together for Change F O L L O W E R S O F S T . F R A N C I S S T O R I E S F R O M O U R R E A D E R S God Works in Funny Ways Yesterday I couldn't find a gold bracelet that I own. I came to work and looked up the site for St. Anthony, thinking about asking for help for finding my bracelet. But instead I found that you can ask for other things for which you need help. I need help with getting my sense of smell back. So instead of my bracelet I asked for my smell back. When I went home I looked in a drawer that I haven't been in for years, and there was my bracelet. God does work in funny ways, but I hope he still remembers my smell. —Judy, Kansas Learn more about St. Anthony and share your story of how he helped you at AmericanCatholic.org/ Features/Anthony. I © RUSLAN OLINCHUK/FOTOLIA

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