‘Catholic Schools Do It All’ during first Diocesan Day of Service

| Posted on TrentonMonitor.com May 8, 2015 |

By Christina Leslie and Staff Writer and EmmaLee Italia – 

Students in St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, invited the town’s police and EMTs to school and expressed their thanks with a hearty breakfast in the gaily decorated cafeteria. Photo courtesy of St. Peter School

Students in St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, invited the town’s police and EMTs to school and expressed their thanks with a hearty breakfast in the gaily decorated cafeteria. Photo courtesy of St. Peter School

St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, teamed up with the Department of Public Works to clean town public areas and prepare flower beds. Photo courtesy of St. Catharine School

St. Catharine School, Spring Lake, teamed up with the Department of Public Works to clean town public areas and prepare flower beds. Photo courtesy of St. Catharine School

Some 9,000 Catholic school students of the Diocese of Trenton used May 1, the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, to reach out to their communities across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties during the inaugural “Catholic Schools Do It All” Day of Service.

Click HERE to view photo gallery from St. Rose School, Belmar
Click HERE to view photo gallery from Pope John Paul II Regional School
Click HERE to view photo gallery of various schools performing works of service.

Representing 31 Catholic elementary schools and two high schools, the students participated in the special day, which was a spin-off of the newly-launched diocesan awareness campaign, “Catholic Schools Have It All.” They participated in a myriad of activities designed to aid those in need, thank those who have contributed to their communities and to improve their own neighborhoods.

Pre-K through 12th-grade students, many dressed in school uniforms or gymwear, performed services that ranged from reading to children in a residential program, visiting with seniors, cleaning public spaces and collecting food for the needy. Schools chronicled the service day on social networks via the project hashtag, #CatholicSchoolsDoItAll.

The project was a way for Catholic school students and other representatives to give back to their communities and to put into action the Episcopal motto of their bishop, Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.: “To serve and not to be served.”

Bishop O’Connell affirmed the efforts of all who played a role in the Day of Service, and underscored that acts of service make up an integral part of the daily experience in Catholic schools. “Having a day like this in which all of our schools participate is so important because it demonstrates what a significant difference we can make together,” he said.

The Bishop added, “Service is a mission of our schools day in and day out, and all of them take part in much-needed charitable efforts throughout the year. It would be impossible to calculate the positive impact that our Catholic schools make on their communities and the world in general, but this Day of Service offers just a glimpse.”

“Service is one of the pillars of our schools, and this is a great opportunity to thank our communities for their support and encourage them to get to know us better,” said Donna Davidson, associate director of the Department of Catholic Schools. “Thousands of students will proudly live out their mission across the Diocese representing their school.”

The Day of Service for the Catholic schools began as all good things do: with prayer. Many schools celebrated their customary First Friday Mass, a prayer service or a May Crowning, then journeyed out into their communities to perform acts of service and mercy in a variety of ways, proving Catholic schools, and their students, truly “do it all.”

At St. Rose School, Belmar, a phalanx of teachers and students from grades one to eight sported blue school sweatshirts as they were escorted by a Belmar police car with patrol lights flashing up Sixth Avenue to the town’s Silver Lake and Atlantic Ocean shorelines to pick up trash.

Second and third grade classes exuded boundless energy as they ran along the beach, trailing billowing black plastic garbage bags clutched tightly in their clear latex-gloved hands. Tiny hands picked up sneakers, fence posts, plastic bags, balloons and fishing hooks, among other trash.

With each new discovery bagged, the students professed the joy of protecting beachgoers and marine life along the shoreline. “This helps the environment,” third grade student Bryce LeMoult said as he placed a fishing hook into the trash bag.

Meanwhile, along the shores of Silver Lake, older students trod the sloped ground gingerly under the watchful eyes of their teachers and St. Rose School principal William Roberts. He explained his school’s participation in the Day of Service, saying, “We benefit from what Belmar has to offer; this is our chance to give back.”

Seventh-grade student Andrew McDonnel joined classmates Amber Ogno, Madison Cummins and Alex Sims as they fished out plastic grocery bags from the inland lake. McDonnel explained the school’s motivation for the project, observing, “This helps support the community and make the lake a better place.”

Students and teachers in St. Raphael School, Hamilton, collaborated on their Day of Service activity, with students voicing the desire to “help kids like us,” reported Principal Ann Cwirko. After learning that some of the campers in the Mercer County CYO summer and after school programs often lack necessary items for their trips to local pools, the children took action.

Students gathered to assemble drawstring backpacks of summer-themed items they had collected from their families and local businesses. Each backpack, stuffed with a t-shirt, sunblock, flip flops, swim goggles, a water bottle, hand towel, colored pencils, a Frisbee and sidewalk chalk was made complete with a prayer signed by all the students in each class, wishing “may you always have an angel by your side.”

The students carried the 75 assembled bags into the cafeteria and presented the backpacks to Quincy Walzer, assistant director of the Mercer County CYO’s after school and summer camp program, and John Soss, CYO Ewing’s special activities coordinator.

Kindergartener Sophia Clugston and eighth-grader and student council treasurer Brianna O’Malley worked together to assemble a backpack. O’Malley noted, “I think they’ll be very happy [to receive it],” and Clugton added about its intended recipient, “It’s not fair that they don’t have enough, that they don’t have the things we have.”

Fourth-grader John Paul Colter said his favorite part of the Day of Service was, “we’re helping people to be able to do what we do, so that they don’t have to be lonely – they know someone else cares about them.”

St. Raphael School also participates in several standing projects throughout the school year.

There are nearly 17,000 Catholic school students in kindergarten through high school across Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

For more on the diocesan campaign “Catholic Schools Have It All,” and to view a video message from Bishop O’Connell.

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