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Everyday Evangelists: Recent McAuley graduate a ‘woman of faith’

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ST. MARGARET MARY DEANERY — Kelsey Copes loves being around people and staying connected with them.
Whether it’s through her extensive volunteer work, her active leadership in her parish youth group or her plans to major in nursing when she begins classes at the College of Mount St. Joseph in mid-August, Copes, a recent graduate of McAuley High School, always enjoys the interaction she has with others and strives to help those in need whenever she can.

“Kelsey is a wonderful example of the brilliance of balance that each McAuley High School young woman strives to achieve,” said Kathy Dietrich, a public relations representative for McAuley. “She is a woman of faith, well prepared to lead, to serve and to love.”

Kelsey Copes
Kelsey Copes (Courtesy photo)

Given her desire to serve, it was no surprise that Copes took her fifth mission trip to Hazard, Ky., in late June to help the residents of the rural area. Hazard, which is in the eastern part of the state, is approximately three-and-a-half hours from Cincinnati.
Copes, a member of St. Ann Parish in Groesbeck, went with her church youth group VOICES (Venturing on in Christ’s Eternal Spirit) to specifically help Hazard resident Maria Campbell, who has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The group has worked with the Campbells, members of Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Hazard, on their past two trips. Last year, Copes helped build an accessible ramp at the ranch-style house. This summer she assisted with fixing part of the porch.
“It was so good to see Maria again,” Copes said. “I feel very connected with her and the people there. You always wish you could do one more thing (for them).”
Copes said she hopes to return to Hazard in the future. For now, she stays connected with Campbell via Facebook and often keeps her in her prayers.
Karen Sweet, who has been the youth group director at St. Ann Parish for more than 10 years, said Copes and Campbell have become good friends. “(Maria) thinks the world of her,” Sweet said.
Copes started going to Hazard the summer before her freshman year at McAuley. She said the trips strengthen her Catholic faith and remind her of God’s gifts in her own life. It’s also a reality check about learning to live “a fuller life,” Copes said.
There are more than 20 youth members and seven adults in St. Ann’s group, which has also helped with the maintenance of Mother of Good Counsel Church and a hospital clinic in Hazard. Copes has helped make home repairs, do landscaping and yard work, paint a roof, fix a deck and power wash a house.

“Every time I return to Hazard, I feel more and more connected to the people there,” Copes said. “The Mother of Good Counsel community always welcomes us with open arms and appreciates all the service we do for them.”
Copes said the youth group is composed mostly of juniors and seniors in high school, and she was glad to take on more of a leadership advisory role this summer.
“I love volunteering,” she said. “I love to help to see their faces and to see how they appreciate it.”
In addition to her ministry in Hazard, Copes has also been an active leader at St. Ann Parish. For the past eight years, she has taught religious education classes for 4-year-olds and has helped with Vacation Bible School. She also has worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Copes sparked the first student-led retreat at St. Ann Parish. She has led three retreats since her junior year, held at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center or the Oldenburg Franciscan Center, both in Indiana. The students leave Saturday morning and have Mass on Sunday morning before returning to Cincinnati. Sweet said Copes is very efficient at organizing the agenda and speaking arrangements for the retreats and has organized them in as little as two days.
“She is fantastic. That’s all I can say,” Sweet said. “She is very good with the kids. When she talks, they listen. She’s authoritative and she does it wonderfully and lovingly. I can’t say enough about her.”
“I think her parents have instilled in her that if you want something, you can’t rely on someone else to do it,” Sweet said. “I think she learns by her parents’ example, and I think she sees a need and wants to do it. I know she loves God and has very good morality and spirituality.”

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