The Savio Youth Ministry Core Team (youth leaders) meets every Wednesday night to plan for our weekly Monday Youth Group. As Thanksgiving approached, the Core Team brought forth ideas of doing something special to celebrate such a holiday. A debate starts, some of the team members want a game, others want a movie.
Suddenly, the team shouts in unison, "Let's have a potluck!" I immediately asked what it meant, in my eternal ignorance about some Anglo-Saxon terms, and the explanation given was that everyone needs to provide food for dinner for everyone to share. And so we all agreed to do a potluck. We made a list with names and the food items everyone needed to bring. Our CYM, Father Itchan, committed to buying a turkey.
When Monday morning arrives, Taaj and I double check with the Core Team to make sure no one has forgotten to bring their food item. Meanwhile, Fr. Itchan went out to buy the turkey. 7:00pm hits and as usual, the youth of our parish pour into the youth center. Some brought sodas, some brought the utensils, etc. I can tell much effort was put in by one of our Core Team members, Ayleen Nuno, to make delicious mashed potatoes. Carlos Pinelo, another youth leader, brings a box of pizza with a slice already missing (I wonder why). Danielle Calandrino, another member of the Core Team, comes in with a complete market in her hands and with this, and lots of other food brought to the table, there was enough food to feed everyone present.
Carlos Pinelo starts the meeting off with a game called "Cornucopia". The game was so successful that we played for as long as 45 minutes. Afterwards, I remember Taaj constantly asking me every 3 seconds, "Is the turkey ready yet?" I always replied, "No, it needs 20 more minutes." It was good that the meeting still included a talk about Thanksgiving from Taaj so that the turkey would have enough time to cook. The teens were also divided into groups and discussed what Taaj presented. They answered questions like: What are you thankful for? Who are you thankful for? What gifts and talents are you thankful to God for? This discussion among the groups gave birth to an environment of reflection and gratitude for the blessings we have and the values those blessings hold in our lives that we fail to stop and think about.
The turkey was still missing when the time for the potluck drew closer. I rushed to the kitchen to find Fr. Itchan. Now the two of us view the kitchen as a foreign space so we desperately relied on God to guide us in following the cooking instructions correctly to prepare the turkey. We questioned each other on how well we thought it was cooked. We encourage each other, then doubt ourselves, and the process continues until we are finally convinced by the look and smell of the turkey. We finally bring it out.
The Core Team waits at the potluck table, available to serve. In this way they exemplify good disciples and missionaries. They live out the passage of Mark 9:35, "If you want to be first, become the last and servant of all." Father Itchan gives us a blessing before we eat. Everyone enjoyed the food and the abundance of it. We played music, a movie, and set up a jumper for a while for the teens to enjoy. This night left a sense of a family environment. It was the atmosphere of the big St. Dominic Savio Youth Ministry family.