By Kathleen Ioacabelli, St. Catherine's
EYE17 was a life changing trip for me. I learned many new things about my faith and about others in my faith. But most importantly, I learned how faith helps you through your highs and lows.
Our trip started before others at EYE. The Diocese of Atlanta had a meeting to discuss what our week at EYE would be like. We also learned facts about Oklahoma and got to know the other people that would be on the trip. After that, we had many weeks to prepare for our journey.
On Sunday, at St. Catherine’s, my home parish, we said a blessing before our trip early Monday morning. As Mother Sarah said, we were very privileged to be able to go on such a trip and have the opportunity to learn about others in our faith. And that we did.
I could not wait to go on my trip and I am sure all of you have experienced the times when something very exciting is going to happen the next day so you wake up many times during the night to see if it is time. Well, that happened to me. I woke up many times that night waiting for this super exciting trip to begin. When it was time to wakeup that morning, I was ready to go. I had packed all of the things I was sure to need and got in the car to head to the airport. On the way there, we stopped and picked up Owen, one of the boys from my church who was going on this trip.
Finally, after what seemed to be the longest car ride ever, we were at the airport. We parked the car and my dad took us into the airport where we met Sally and all of our other friends that were going. We checked our bags, went through security and were ready to go. Shortly after that, we boarded the airplane and headed for Dallas. When we got there, we all got off the plane, bought lunch and sat at the gate. A group of us were sitting on the floor playing a game of Uno. And from that moment on, I knew we would be great friends. A short while later, we got on the airplane and headed to our final destination, Oklahoma City.
When we got there, we were welcomed by the EYE17 Staff and headed off to the University of Oklahoma City. On the bus ride there, we met a few people from other dioceses. They were just a few of the people we would meet. When we got there, Sally checked us in while we stood outside. And thanks to Happening and New Beginnings, we all knew many of the same songs. So, being the loud group we are, we began to sing. We sang and sang all of the words we knew. Then, Sally returned and we had our first pep talk about all the rules and how to work the EYE app. We got assigned rooms and we all went to find them. Then, we went to play on some of the bouncy houses and play on the soccer fields. This is where we met new friends, played games and shared stories. We taught people how to play Duck Duck Animal and many other of our favorite games. Then, it was dinner time.
We were waiting in line for dinner when two feet in front of me, a kid fell down and began to have a seizure. I called for Sally while others called 911 and got him help. I held the doors with one other person to help the EMTs. While the rest of our group grabbed others and began to pray. When he needed more room, we went to the other side of the dining hall and got food. During this time, we continued to pray for him.
The next day came and we went down for breakfast. After eating a good meal, we met many new friends while we played soccer, volleyball and basketball. We got in line to get seats at the opening Eucharist. This is where we watched Perry carry the cross and Alexis carry our Atlanta banner. This is when the Bishop came to talk to us. He gave a great sermon about going out and helping those who need it, not just the ones that everyone else is helping. He also told us to help others not because others will thank us or acknowledge us but to do it because they need to be helped and because those are the people God would want us to help. After Eucharist, we played more games and tried to learn new names.
On Wednesday, we wore our EYE shirts and toured many places like the art museum and the Oklahoma City bombing museum. This was a very sad place because you were really there right as the tragedy was happening. It showed you the faces of the lives lost and showed news clips. I even cried which, if you haven’t met me is a big deal because I rarely cry. The end of the museum tour was the saddest part. You walk up to huge glass windows and look in to the base of what used to be the building. Then, you see the most powerful part, two signs as tall as houses. The sign on the left wall is marked 9:01 and the sign on the right is marked 9:02 and in the middle are huge metal chairs that are marked with the names of those that died and they were glowing with lights that pointed up from the base. They weren’t just chairs but they were a memorial for the men, women and children that died. They had names on them and they were different sizes. The big chairs were for adults and the little chairs are for the kids. When I walked up to the windows and saw this, all I could do was stand there, cry and wonder why anyone would do this. I was then comforted by others in my group who gave me hugs. As we walked out, everyone slowly began to talk. Everyone started to look to the left and point. They were pointing at a fence, a metal chain linked fence where loved ones left flowers, art, stuffed animals, notes and so much more. It was so powerful to experience something like this but in my heart, I knew God did it for a reason.
We toured other exhibits like the house show and history museum. Late that night, we headed back to the campus where we talked about how we felt and the impact it had on us. Time flew by and it was time to wake up again. We ate breakfast and then got seats in the gym to listen to a group from Kids 4 Peace. They told us about how hard it was to live where they did because everyone was always in wars and bombing each other. After I listened, I took a moment to thank God that I live in America and even when we have bad times and bombings, we still have people to help us. I prayed that one day the world will be peaceful so we could really love one another - no matter what someone looks like or where they come from.
We then headed to Praxis sessions which are like small group learning times. During these, I learned about how to work with others, how to use my voice, how to pray and how to join the Jesus Movement. In case you don’t know, that the Jesus Movement is, it is a movement led by the Bishop where he explains that you show love others and help those who need it, not because you will get recognized but because it is the right thing to do. This is was my first time hearing the Bishop talk and it was very impressive. He explained the Bible and the movement in a way a teen would understand but also like he had just met with God at Starbucks to discuss what he should tell us.
After that, we met new people and got ready for dinner knowing that tomorrow we had to leave. That night, we had a closing Eucharist where we learned more songs and prayed for those who would be leaving the next day. During Communion, we got coins with the EYE logo and the Episcopal symbol on them. We were told to keep one to remind us of the trip and to take the other to someone who impacted us. The next day, we were exhausted. We got on the bus which got us to the airport after saying many sad good-byes. On the way home, I thought about how good our trip was and how thankful I was to be a part of such a cool trip. When we got home, I told my parents about how much fun I had and how I was so excited to tell everyone at St. Cat’s about my trip.