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Former youth ministers 'simply live' their ministry

posted Mar 29, 2012, 8:45 AM by John Ramthun
Around the Diocese
Written by Sue Klamer Barry, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Mar. 29, 2012 -- 12:00 AM


Sarah and John Ramthun present their “Gifted and Talented” Seminar at the Community Center in Sauk. (Catholic Herald photo/Sue Klamer Barry)

SAUK CITY -- Sarah and John Ramthun believe in living simply. They not only believe it is the best way to live, but they have made it their mission in life.

They are founders of a not-for-profit organization, called 6:8-Making Service Personal, and the ministry is rooted in the vision of “people fully alive — passionately embracing and sharing their blessings.”

Transforming communities

The 6:8 organization, made up of the Ramthuns, their board of directors, and a large following of volunteers and supporters, believes it can make a difference by “transforming communities by making service personal.”

Who is our community? According to the 6:8 staff, our community includes our families, neighbors, schools, workplaces, and churches, to name a few. “We are all part of many ‘communities’ and we ask ourselves at 6:8, ‘how can we help transform yours?’” according to directors Sarah and John Ramthun.

They explained how they came up with this ministry two years ago. “We prayed about it and tried to find a way we could put our shared experiences — years of working in youth ministry — into something more,” Sarah said.

The organization 6:8 is not connected to any church, but does network with many other organizations, including with many parishes in the Diocese of Madison.

Their background

Sarah and John are both Wisconsinites, although they grew up in different communities. John grew up on a farm outside West Bend with his parents and five siblings.

Sarah grew up in a family of five on the south side of Milwaukee. Her family also loves to spend time together at the family cottage in Door County.

They both, however, were brought up in families that were very involved in their local parishes. “Our faith has been an important part of our lives,” Sarah said.

They both went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John majoring in bio-chemistry and Sarah in pre-med. St. Paul’s University Catholic Center played a significant part in their undergraduate experience. As God worked in their lives, they switched their majors to religious studies, became friends, and graduated in 2004.

Youth ministry in Sauk City

In 2004, they also had many changes in their lives. They became youth ministers at St. Aloysius in Sauk City, got married (at St. Paul’s), and moved to Sauk-Prairie. They worked as directors of religious education and youth ministry at St. Aloysius for six years.

“St. Al’s brought many wonderful memories, including leading our first mission trips, building close and lasting friendships and many ties in our community,” Sarah said.

A main turning point came to John and Sarah while on a mission trip. “We heard the Scripture reading about serving the hungry, etc. (Matthew 25) and we realized we were coming close to Christ in serving the poor and needy.

“When you serve the least of my brothers you serve me,” was the quote that hit Sarah and John.

It was this experience that led them to embrace the ministry of service. “In 2010 God called us to a new apostolate to serve our community. We prayed and asked others for their prayers, support, and help,” John said.

They set up the 6:8-Making Service Personal organization as a 501(c)3 non-profit, recruited a board of directors, and have since made remarkable contributions to local and farther communities.

Projects sponsored by 6:8

Most recently 6:8 sponsored a Lenten project called “Feed My Sheep,” which gathered financial support and help from seven parishes in the diocese to put together over 57,000 meals for the hungry. This was a new project for 6:8, but with the help of over 250 volunteers and $15,000 in donations, the project was a huge success.

Meals were put together at the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison on March 3. Eighty percent of the food was distributed to the needy in the diocese and the rest was distributed through parish connections and will go as far as Haiti.

Projects to help the hungry are one of the top priorities for 6:8. For example, an ongoing project is Sauk Prairie Kids Against Hunger, in which 6:8 teams with Sauk Prairie Schools and Kids Against Hunger to provide food to children and families who may not have access to food during school breaks (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring).

The need continues to increase with 70 families being helped during this year’s spring break.

Mission trips

6:8 continues to sponsor a high school mission trip through MadCAAP, where high school students and adults travel to Mississippi in June to build a house for a family in poverty. John and Sarah have done these trips for eight years.

6:8 also continues to sponsor a middle school mission trip, taking students to “Love Begins Here,” a local four-day service experience.

The Silver Cord Program is also sponsored by 6:8. It recognizes high school students who have given 160 hours or more of community service. These students wear a silver cord at graduation.

Students can also earn hours by helping on the Spring Service Day, when volunteers for 6:8 take requests from community members for spring outside work.

Newer projects

This year 6:8 is exploring working with Habitat for Humanity in Sauk County to restore the mind, body, spirit, and home of those in need.

Another project that 6:8 has been expanding this year is their “Gifted and Talented” workshop. The workshop introduces individuals to the most common charisms given by the Holy Spirit and teaches them to use these gifts.

A workshop is planned for Saturday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Sauk-Prairie Community Center. People can sign up at www.MakingServicePersonal.org

Four pillars

A day in the lives of Sarah and John encompasses many ways to serve and most are inspired by the pillars they founded their organization on. Each pillar is linked to a 6:8 Scripture.

  • The first pillar is “Experience” (Micah 6:8) by providing opportunities for direct service and relationship building.
  • The second pillar is “Education” (Mark 6:8) by which the organization teaches through word and deed about issues of justice and how people can help.
  • We all have blessings, gifts, and talents. Being aware of them so we can share them with others is called “Exhortation” (Isaiah 6:8).
  • The fourth pillar is “Embodiment” (1 Timothy 6:8) and encourages that we “live simply so others may simply live.”

To find out how you can help support this unique ministry, visit www.MakingServicePersonal.org