‘Doing it all’ – Catholic students embark on mission of service
Annual event brings schools into communities for acts of giving back
In communities across central New Jersey, students from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton are spending a day doing service April 29. This second annual event includes everything from visiting senior homes to organizing environmental clean-ups on the shore, and is another reminder that when it comes to service, faith and community, Catholic schools have – and do – it all.
Pre-K through 12th grade students are hosting breakfasts or luncheons for seniors, writing letters to children who are being treated in local hospitals, preparing and delivering lunches to a local soup kitchen and many other acts of giving back on this day of service.
As students in All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin, bustled about with their Day of Service endeavors April 29, fifth and sixth grade teacher, Deborah McCauley, reflected on the meaning of the day.
While the school serves its home community on a regular basis in many different ways, the Diocesan Day of Service “enables us to reach a broader sense of community.”
“With over 10,000 Catholic school students stepping up and serving communities all across our Trenton Diocese on the same designated day, we feel a special sense of pride. We are all making impacts on the communities that we live in and love,” said McCauley.
ASRCS chose to collect books for Bridge of Books Foundation, which has as its mission to provide an ongoing source of new and gently used books to underserved and at-risk children throughout New Jersey.
“We chose this organization for our service day project because we believe that every child deserves to own his/her own books, to encourage a love of reading and to increase literacy skills,” McCauley explained then added that after the student collected, sorted and packed the books in boxes, they delivered them to the Holmdel-based Bridge of Books. Book topics ranged from books for infants to high school-level reading.
Of his Day of Service experience, fifth grader Christopher Prosperi said he was happy for the opportunity to “help the unfortunate and help kids,” then added that he thought that the day was a “very good idea and that more schools should do” service-oriented projects.
“I have learned how to help all kids in need and to share things,” he said.
Fellow classmate Bridget Little thought the book collection was “a wonderful idea because it lets children have the experience with books, and it lets their imagination expand to live better lives to the future.”
Echoing Prosperi’s sentiments about the positive aspects of the Day of Service, Little added that, “I have learned that my school cares a lot about these things, and not only the Bridge of Books, but also about fundraisers to help people in need.”
“We are teaching our students that they are not just individuals in a school, but they are a part of a school community that reaches out into the broader communities where they live and even further than where they live” McCauley said. “We are so very proud of our students for their enthusiasm and willingness to participate in this service project. It may be difficult to even comprehend that there are children who do not own their own books. Our students at All Saints Regional Catholic School are working hard to change that and we believe they will make a tremendous impact.”
Students and Seniors — Perfect Together at TCA
For the second year in row, the students in the Lower School of Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, visited their neighbor’s at McCorristin Square, a senior residential facility whose residents have formed a close relationship with the students at TCA.
“I love bringing joy to people!” an apt-named first grade student, Joy Sloh, said as she skipped on the sidewalk between the adjacent buildings on her way to McCorristin Square with her class. “I can’t wait to get there!”
The Day of Service started with the pre-K and kindergarten classes beginning with a prayer service and shared with the residents their gift of songs about springtime.
“They all loved it. The kids loved it, the residents loved it. We really had a good time,” kindergarten teacher, Michele Makovec acknowledged.
The fourth grade students planted flowers in individual pots that residents could keep in their apartments. The students in the seventh grades played BINGO! with the seniors while the second grade classes opted for classic card games such as Go Fish and Old Maid.
Seventh grade teacher Biji Abraham offered, “It was a great experience. It’s good for both the children and the residents to share laughs and enjoy one another’s company. It’s good to remember we’re all neighbors and part of a larger community. “
The first grade classes recited poems that they had been learning during April, which is National Poetry Month, and presented their senior neighbors with a flower.
Students also made beautiful prayer cards and springtime crafts for the residents, gifts that were well-received and appreciated by the residents.
Dolly Tafrow, who resides in McCorristin Square, shared just how much she and her fellow residents delight in visits from the students at the neighboring school.
“It was so enjoyable. They [fellow residents] love the children. They love their singing and playing cards with them. They just loved their music and poetry. They made beautiful prayer cards and crafts- they loved it all. It was really a wonderful day.”
Lower School Director, Anne Reap reflected on the annual event, and even joined in a game of Old Maid with the second grade students and their senior friends.
“We say it every school day at Trenton Catholic Academy- love is our mission. Today’s Gospel from John tells us, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” Service and love of neighbor goes hand in hand. Our students are taught the importance of serving others. This day provides us with another opportunity to serve those in our neighborhood. Service is a way of life for our schools in the Diocese of Trenton. It’s who we are and what we do.”
The Monitor is covering this Diocese-wide event and will be providing continuing coverage at TrentonMonitor.com as well as in the May 5 print edition of The Monitor.
Day of Service with a twist in Delran
By Brittany Wilson | Diocesan Social Media Coordinator
While the majority of students from around the Diocese rolled up their sleeves to do service projects on April 29, the designated Diocesan Day of Service, there were a few schools that scheduled their service project for another date and time.
One such school was Holy Cross Academy, where dozens of students were hard at work by 8:30 a.m. April 30. The nearly 40 teenagers woke up early on a Saturday morning to wield shovels, push wheelbarrows and plant flowers in an effort to improve the Delran school’s grounds ahead of an open house planned there May 1.
To see photos from Holy Cross Academy, click here.
“The grounds have gone neglected for quite some time, we are putting a little care into it to make it more welcoming,” said Timothy Durkin, the academy’s director of community and alumni Relations. “I talked to the kids this morning, right before we broke for breakfast, after we said our prayer. I spoke to them about taking pride in what they are doing for their school.
“A lot of them are seniors … so for them to put their touch on the school before they leave is really nice. I want them to come into school every day and say ‘I was a part of this’.”
One of the seniors was volunteer Ryan Schaub.
“I just really love Holy Cross, and anything we can do to improve it, I want to be a part of,” he said. “My sister went to public school, so I got to see both ends of the spectrum and in Catholic school — at Holy Cross — there’s an incredible group of people. I just want to help out.”
Current Lancers weren’t alone in their efforts. Alumni and parents pitched in to help out too.
“It’s important that everyone realizes volunteering is important, everyone is going to need a hand at some point,” said David Moore, as he dug planter space around a tree with his sons Daniel, Class of 2017, and Paul, Class of 2019.
“Everyone has a busy schedule, but when we come together to volunteer, you can achieve a lot more than you could on your own.”
Moore agreed with Durkin that the project would help instill pride in the students who participated in the Day of Service.
“It also teaches these young men and women who are out here helping today to give something of themselves,” said Moore, a member of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington. “They can feel good and say ‘Hey, I took part in this and it looks great.”
Matt Tomez, who graduated from Holy Cross in 2008, volunteered time — both his own and that of four employees — and materials from his company, MPM Landscaping.
The service day was the second this school year at Holy Cross. Durkin said he plans to coordinate three school-wide service days per year — fall and spring events will focus on beautifying the grounds, while the winter session will incorporate indoor improvements.
Elementary school students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Maple Shade, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown, and St. Mary of the Lakes, Medford, also participated.