November 26, 2013
For Service To Others
Make us worthy, Lord
To serve our fellow human beings
throughout the world who live and die
in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands this day their
And by our understanding love,
give peace and joy.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa is someone who I have long admired for her work with the poor and her service to those who have needs beyond what you or I could ever imagine. Service to others has always been important and helping others recognize the meaning of giving to others has long been a focus for the staff, parents, and children of Saint Joseph Grade School.
In the spring of 2012, we began looking at ways that we could help our students connect with each other in a meaningful way, and in a K-8 building this can be difficult. Serving others and the importance of recognizing that we are members of a community of people was important as we explored how we could promote a family atmosphere with such a wide range of ages. We also wanted to give our eighth graders an opportunity to show leadership “by doing.” If you have ever worked with adolescents you soon learn that, while one may recognize the qualities of leadership in many of our students, it is not always as apparent when they are with their peers.
In the fall of 2012, we introduced the concept of Family Groups, which are comprised of children from Kindergarten to seventh grade with at least two eighth graders identified as family leaders. There are twenty-three of these groups that also have at least two adults to assist as necessary. The adults are comprised of all staff as well as some members of the Pastoral Team, which includes Father Kevin and Father Brian. Each month there is a family activity that takes around thirty to forty-five minutes and a Family Mass where they sit together and attend as a family. Many of the activities focus on service to others outside the school community, as did the one last Friday. I wish you could have been there because it was so amazing to see how these families have evolved in the last year and a half.
The eighth graders begin with prayer and end with prayer and in-between lead by introducing the activity we are focusing on that month. This month we collected food for St. Vincent de Paul and worked hard to achieve a school goal of 1,000 items of food. We also made blankets for people identified by St. Vincent’s as people who may not have heat to keep them warm in the winter or who lack the basic necessities. Seeing the children working together to finish the blankets for delivery was amazing. The result has been children who connect to members of their family who are older or younger, children who are so proud of their fellow family members, and eighth graders who are taking the responsibility of being in charge of their family in such a mature way. It is a joy to hear little ones telling parents that someone is a member of their family and with such pride in their voice. I am really looking forward to many more family gatherings with the children in my group.
May all of our families continue to recognize the importance of giving to others as we begin the new liturgical year. Remember what God has asked us to do in serving the poor and remember to remember them during the holidays.