If you spend a little time in an art gallery looking at classic religious renditions of the apostles, you likely will have a particular impression.
The paintings by masters like Rubens and Rembrandt portray older men with long hair, scraggly beards, and wrinkled faces. They don’t look like them have spent much time at the grooming bar. Chances are they didn’t take a daily hot shower and use balsam-scented hair conditioner.
Frankly, they look a bit scruffy.
Of course, in reality, the apostles started their mission as young men, probably in their early 30s. Some had been fishermen, so they probably were strong and physically fit. They probably were a bit short on dental care and truly didn’t use balsam-scented hair conditioner.
But the mission of the apostle started at a relatively young age. And today, many apostles are young, fresh – and nicely groomed. They also come in both male and female versions and aren’t even a little bit scruffy.
“At the end of the day when I’m tried and my knees hurt, a child comes out screaming, ‘This is the best day ever!’ which makes it all worth it,” said Laura Juarez of the parish staff at the conclusion of the 2017 event. “The effect of Angel for a Day is great because what we want is to attract more families, and to bring them, we need to begin with the kids. When the kids come, the families follow. The first time we had a youth day, families started to ask ‘When’s the next one? When will it be?’” She explained how this is important for that neighborhood, “The children don’t just come and play, but they’re also in a safe place and they are learning. We’ve found that the kids transmit this learning to their own parents.”
The volunteer corps for the day included 30 youth –most from the RegnumChristi ECYD Leadership Training Program (LTP) – and 10 adults. The event drew 100 children and a couple dozen parents and parish staff.
The LTP director for boys is Fr. Andrew Gronotte, LC; the director for the girls is Amelia Hoover, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi.
On the surface, Angel for a Day looks pretty simple: a day of fun and games and gifts for kids who might not otherwise have such a joyful Christmas season. (The church is in a tough neighborhood.) But to the volunteers, parish, and beneficiaries it is much more.
Olivia Gutierrez is a 14-year-old freshman at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, MD. And she was among the young apostles at Angel for a Day.
“I always want to help others and spread the word of Jesus,” Olivia said. “I love teaching others, especially children, and building connections between people.
“Jesus sent his 12 apostles to us to help us and to guide us. There are so many examples in the bible where Jesus teaches through his parables or stops to help others by healing. By helping and guiding others I am striving to follow Christ’s teaching.”
Olivia learned that often the role of an apostle is simple and not especially glamorous. During the event she ran the photo booth, where kids could have a picture taken with their friends – and take it home asa remembrance of the day. Part of her job included cutting out Santa hats, reindeer antlers, carrot noses, and other signs.
“These children are full of love and kindness and I will do anything I can to help them continue their lives spreading love and happiness,” Olivia said. “I originally thought that I was doing this solely to bring the light of Jesus to others, but I learned that those children and the other volunteers, brought the light of Jesus to me as well.”
Olivia saw that the example of giving to others wasn’t lost on the children receiving gifts. In fact, some of the very young participants looked to be getting the idea of being an apostle.
“While we were eating lunch I asked Victoria what her name was,” Olivia explained. “She didn’t say anything but she made hand motions and then reached for her prize bag. She pointed in the bag and then to me. She shared one of her prizes with me and she gave me a pencil to bring home. I found it so sweet.
“Another touching experience was when a young boy was sharing his candy with the volunteers. Someone asked him what he was going to do with all of it and he said he was going to go around his neighborhood and share it with his neighbors.”
Olivia strongly encouraged other young people to get involved. “You walk away knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life and there is no better feeling than that.”
Andre Haddad, a 15-year-old from Potomac, who attends St. John’sCollege High School in Washington, gave a similar recommendation.
“I was involved in this because I wanted to help those who were not as fortunate as me,” Andre said. “Helping those people who are not as fortunate as us gets a step closer to heaven and we are evangelizing the word of God in a way.
“During the event I was one of the three kings. I would definitely encourage others to participate because it makes me feel so much better when I help the kids. It is really nice to see the kids smile when we are playing with them.”
Speaking for the parish after the 2018 event, Carmen Rosales (who supplied the photos for this article) thanked the volunteers and recognized that being an apostle means doing deeds both big and small.
“No task is too big or too small,” Carmen said. “Thank you for the set-up, clean-up, supervision, leg-work, patience, the willingness to shift-gears and most importantly, thank you for the many prayers and for presenting our needs and works to the Lord so He may sustain us!”