When he rolled up in his 1969 red Chevy Stepside, seminarian Andrew Gaffney had no idea what a summer internship at Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas would entail – but he was excited to find out. Serving others just seems to be in his DNA.
Andrew has prepared his whole young life for an opportunity like this. In high school he set his hopes on attending nursing school. His ambition: to save lives within the confines of an emergency department.
Then, one day while in chapel he heard a still, small voice calling him to discern a vocation to the priesthood. Later, his parish priest helped validate that calling with a book titled, “To Save a Thousand Souls.”
Fast forward four years and Andrew obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Conception Abbey and will continue his studies this Fall at the Augustine Institute in Denver. In between, he spent the summer serving his neighbors in need through Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.
At 23 years old, Andrew is the youngest seminarian to intern with Catholic Charities. But, his youth combined with his passion for serving, helped Andrew keep up with a challenging schedule.
“I had no idea just how much Catholic Charities did.” admitted Andrew. “It is so much more than food.”
Andrew wanted as much interaction as possible with the people served by Catholic Charities. Without hesitation, he jumped at the opportunity to participate in a myriad of programs including Shalom House, a homeless shelter for men. Here, Andrew not only served meals to the residents, he dined with them.
Andrew also played a key role in operating one of the 30 Kids Summer Food sites where area children and their caregivers were invited to receive free lunch throughout the summer. Each day, Andrew would deliver the meals, post the signs, and set up the room. Finally, he’d serve the children lunch and engage them at the activity station where they could create artwork to take home. Getting to interact with the children and parents as they sat and ate a meal together was one of his favorite parts of the program.
On days he wasn’t serving lunches, Andrew assisted in the food pantries stocking shelves and helping shoppers locate items within their family’s guidelines. Andrew found it eye-opening to see what people are struggling with. He added that it gave him a greater appreciation when working with people in need.
As the summer fades and Andrew packs his belongings to head west, he leaves some sound advice for others looking to get involved with Catholic Charities.
“Go into it full steam. Catholic Charities is an incredible place and whatever you put into it, the more you get out of it.” instructs Andrew. “Catholic Charities will forever hold a great place in my heart.”