Upstate students fast to raise cash for CRS

TAYLORS — Their stomachs were growling, but that didn’t distract them from the message.

“This is our way of doing our part to help people who are in need,” said Patrick Haller, speaking for around 70 fellow high school students who were in the final two of hours of their 24-hour food fast at Prince of Peace Church.

The students raised around $2,000, with a $2,000 match from Prince of Peace, for Catholic Relief Services, a worldwide organization that assists the world’s poor and disadvantaged.

The teens collected money by getting members of their parishes and others to sponsor them during the food fast.

Teens from the Piedmont Deanery have been holding the annual fast for the past six years; the first two were a parish-sponsored event at

St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, and the last four were deanerywide.

This year there were teens from the Greenville County parishes of Prince of Peace, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Mary, St. Anthony and Our Lady of the Rosary; from St. Andrew in Clemson, St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca, and St. Francis in Walhalla.

Erin Cencula, youth minister at Prince of Peace, said students began fasting on their own about 90 minutes before they gathered at the church. They celebrated the end of the fast with a Eucharistic liturgy and a pot-luck supper with their families.

During the 24-hour fast, the students watched and discussed a video supplied by CRS on HIV/AIDS awareness. It included stories of people living with the disease in Zimbabwe and Uganda and the stigma and discrimination they and others face.

The discussion was followed by a benediction, reconciliation and an all-night prayer vigil, where the teens paired off for half-hour prayer sessions from midnight until 8 a.m. the next morning.

“I think a lot of people found that to be very powerful,” Brittany Cencula, 17, said. “It was exciting to see that all play out.”

Kelly McCorkle, the reigning Miss South Carolina and a Greenville native, spoke to the teens on Special Olympics, an international organization that works to empower individuals with mental retardation through sports training and competition.

The teens also performed short skits on Catholic social teaching.

CRS, which also sponsors the annual Operation Rice Bowl during Lent, was founded in 1943 by the U.S. Catholic Bishops to assist the poor and disadvantaged outside this country.

It works to educate Americans to fulfill their moral responsibilities toward people around the world by helping the poor, working to remove the causes of poverty and promoting social justice.

The organization is currently assisting victims of the recent earthquake in Mexico.