Feeding the hungry – and the soul

The Fast for Social Action, a 20-year tradition, was held March 4-5 at St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack.

This year’s event drew 70 teens and 14 adults who shared fellowship and hunger pangs during a 30-hour fast from all but juice and water.

The group, hailing from Greater Nashua and Manchester, assembled Friday and formed teams. Everyone stayed overnight in the church hall. Songs, games, prayers and music preceded the sleepover and helped assuage the hunger.

Eventually, the boys and girls hunkered down on opposite sides of the hall. They continued to shun food. They also abstained from cellphones, iPads and Facebook. Nary a tweet was delivered all night.

The Rev. Chris Martel, pastor at St. John Neumann, said the fast was a challenge, as was the break from social media and video games. The time-out enabled the teams to spend some quiet time reflecting on the needs of others.

"They learn how they can get involved," Martel said of the teens. "There is the social action, the spiritual component and learning. They get knowledge. They learn about what things cost when they’re out buying the food."

Saturday morning prayers, a game of dodgeball and fruit juice fortified the teams for a massive food drive backed by donations. Trips to local supermarkets yielded cereal, canned vegetables, jars of baby food and other nonperishables. The bounty was weighed and recorded in a friendly competition between the teams.

Organizers reported that the event raised more than $19,000 in donations. The teams collected 3,400 pounds of food for St. John Neumann’s food pantry. There are around 6,000 people, including 1,300 families, in the parish. The food supports some from the parish and many more from elsewhere.

Six selected organizations will share the money raised. They are Karg Day Away in Nashua, the Tolles Street Mission in Nashua, the Moore Center in Manchester, the Friendship Club in Nashua and Southern New Hampshire Services, based in Manchester. Officials from the agencies thanked the teens and shared videos showing how each agency helps the needy.

Those on hand represented many schools and some colleges. Students from Bishop Guertin High School won kudos for gathering more than 1,000 pounds of food. Organizers noted that the cumulative tally of the event’s 19 previous years amounts to more than $357,000 and more than 78,095 pounds of food.

Martel credited the event, which culminated in a grand pot-luck dinner on Saturday evening, as one geared to the whole community and one that builds friendships among the teams.

"They’re able to bond together," Martel said. "Some know each other. Some don’t. They’re building a bond that can continue outside of school."

Lisa Scheib, of Merrimack, said her two sons and two daughters have been avid participants over the years. On-site were her children, Chelsea Brown, 21, Dylan Brown, 20, Zaide Brown, 16, and Randy Brown, 12. She said she always has a reply when people talk about how horrible the world is nowadays.

"I say my kids can’t wait to make a difference," Scheib said. "They’re doing it because they want to, not because they have to. They’re living what Jesus wants us to do."

Feeding the hungry – and the soul

The Fast for Social Action, a 20-year tradition, was held March 4-5 at St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack.

This year’s event drew 70 teens and 14 adults who shared fellowship and hunger pangs during a 30-hour fast from all but juice and water.

The group, hailing from Greater Nashua and Manchester, assembled Friday and formed teams. Everyone stayed overnight in the church hall. Songs, games, prayers and music preceded the sleepover and helped assuage the hunger.

Eventually, the boys and girls hunkered down on opposite sides of the hall. They continued to shun food. They also abstained from cellphones, iPads and Facebook. Nary a tweet was delivered all night.

The Rev. Chris Martel, pastor at St. John Neumann, said the fast was a challenge, as was the break from social media and video games. The time-out enabled the teams to spend some quiet time reflecting on the needs of others.

"They learn how they can get involved," Martel said of the teens. "There is the social action, the spiritual component and learning. They get knowledge. They learn about what things cost when they’re out buying the food."

Saturday morning prayers, a game of dodgeball and fruit juice fortified the teams for a massive food drive backed by donations. Trips to local supermarkets yielded cereal, canned vegetables, jars of baby food and other nonperishables. The bounty was weighed and recorded in a friendly competition between the teams.

Organizers reported that the event raised more than $19,000 in donations. The teams collected 3,400 pounds of food for St. John Neumann’s food pantry. There are around 6,000 people, including 1,300 families, in the parish. The food supports some from the parish and many more from elsewhere.

Six selected organizations will share the money raised. They are Karg Day Away in Nashua, the Tolles Street Mission in Nashua, the Moore Center in Manchester, the Friendship Club in Nashua and Southern New Hampshire Services, based in Manchester. Officials from the agencies thanked the teens and shared videos showing how each agency helps the needy.

Those on hand represented many schools and some colleges. Students from Bishop Guertin High School won kudos for gathering more than 1,000 pounds of food. Organizers noted that the cumulative tally of the event’s 19 previous years amounts to more than $357,000 and more than 78,095 pounds of food.

Martel credited the event, which culminated in a grand pot-luck dinner on Saturday evening, as one geared to the whole community and one that builds friendships among the teams.

"They’re able to bond together," Martel said. "Some know each other. Some don’t. They’re building a bond that can continue outside of school."

Lisa Scheib, of Merrimack, said her two sons and two daughters have been avid participants over the years. On-site were her children, Chelsea Brown, 21, Dylan Brown, 20, Zaide Brown, 16, and Randy Brown, 12. She said she always has a reply when people talk about how horrible the world is nowadays.

"I say my kids can’t wait to make a difference," Scheib said. "They’re doing it because they want to, not because they have to. They’re living what Jesus wants us to do."

Feeding the hungry – and the soul

The Fast for Social Action, a 20-year tradition, was held March 4-5 at St. John Neumann Church in Merrimack.

This year’s event drew 70 teens and 14 adults who shared fellowship and hunger pangs during a 30-hour fast from all but juice and water.

The group, hailing from Greater Nashua and Manchester, assembled Friday and formed teams. Everyone stayed overnight in the church hall. Songs, games, prayers and music preceded the sleepover and helped assuage the hunger.

Eventually, the boys and girls hunkered down on opposite sides of the hall. They continued to shun food. They also abstained from cellphones, iPads and Facebook. Nary a tweet was delivered all night.

The Rev. Chris Martel, pastor at St. John Neumann, said the fast was a challenge, as was the break from social media and video games. The time-out enabled the teams to spend some quiet time reflecting on the needs of others.

"They learn how they can get involved," Martel said of the teens. "There is the social action, the spiritual component and learning. They get knowledge. They learn about what things cost when they’re out buying the food."

Saturday morning prayers, a game of dodgeball and fruit juice fortified the teams for a massive food drive backed by donations. Trips to local supermarkets yielded cereal, canned vegetables, jars of baby food and other nonperishables. The bounty was weighed and recorded in a friendly competition between the teams.

Organizers reported that the event raised more than $19,000 in donations. The teams collected 3,400 pounds of food for St. John Neumann’s food pantry. There are around 6,000 people, including 1,300 families, in the parish. The food supports some from the parish and many more from elsewhere.

Six selected organizations will share the money raised. They are Karg Day Away in Nashua, the Tolles Street Mission in Nashua, the Moore Center in Manchester, the Friendship Club in Nashua and Southern New Hampshire Services, based in Manchester. Officials from the agencies thanked the teens and shared videos showing how each agency helps the needy.

Those on hand represented many schools and some colleges. Students from Bishop Guertin High School won kudos for gathering more than 1,000 pounds of food. Organizers noted that the cumulative tally of the event’s 19 previous years amounts to more than $357,000 and more than 78,095 pounds of food.

Martel credited the event, which culminated in a grand pot-luck dinner on Saturday evening, as one geared to the whole community and one that builds friendships among the teams.

"They’re able to bond together," Martel said. "Some know each other. Some don’t. They’re building a bond that can continue outside of school."

Lisa Scheib, of Merrimack, said her two sons and two daughters have been avid participants over the years. On-site were her children, Chelsea Brown, 21, Dylan Brown, 20, Zaide Brown, 16, and Randy Brown, 12. She said she always has a reply when people talk about how horrible the world is nowadays.

"I say my kids can’t wait to make a difference," Scheib said. "They’re doing it because they want to, not because they have to. They’re living what Jesus wants us to do."