When you were a student, you most likely participated in some type of fundraiser or at least a discussion about the importance of caring for those less fortunate, right? Many schools recognize the importance of teaching children to care for those less fortunate and most students have the opportunity to learn about current social justice issues. For Catholic Schools, caring for the most vulnerable is an essential aspect of education. Educating within the Catholic faith means not only creating awareness of social justice issues but fostering an attentive, merciful presence to the most vulnerable in society.
Our Church has a long legacy of world-wide charity, with more hospitals, schools and missions than any other non-governmental organization! From the beginnings of the Church, Christians have been striving to imitate the radical mercy shown by Christ to the poor. We all have all been inspired by stories of St. Francis of Assisi or Saint Teresa of Calcutta (or the many others!) who truly spent their lives putting the mercy of Christ into action. For Christians, at the heart of all charitable works is a desire to continue portraying the merciful heart of Jesus to those most in need.
Catholic Schools share in this mission of making mercy known. The word “mercy” is derived from the latin word, “misereri” meaning to have compassion of or in one’s heart. Through loving interactions in the hallways and classrooms, Catholic catechesis and through the building of genuine community, students in Catholic schools come to recognize school as a place where this compassionate heart of Christianity is lived out. Having experienced a school community which lives out this call, students then learn to give this authentic Christian compassion to the world. Just as Mass finishes with a “sending out” to “proclaim the gospel with our lives” – so too, the Catholic student is always called to take what they’ve received in school and put it into action in society. Visits to soup kitchens, fundraisers for food banks and other charitable works are part of this “sending out”.
Our mission as Catholic Educators is to ensure that each of our students experiences this mercy and learns to share what they have been given with the world – and in a particular way, to those most in need.
In an address to Catholic schools in 2013, Pope Francis encouraged students to remember this aspect of their education:
“”In your school, you take part in various activities that habituate you not to shut yourselves in on yourselves or in your small world, but to be open to others, especially to the poorest and neediest, to work to improve the world in which we live. Be men and women with others and for others, real champions in the service of others.”Pope Francis
What does this look like in Canada?
In the first few months of 2021, we reached out to Catholic Schools across Canada asking how they were serving the communities around them. The response was incredible. From Coast to Coast, we saw that Catholic Schools are taking seriously this mission to love, serve and bring mercy to those most in need.
As we look to the quickly-approaching Advent season this year, here are a few of the encouraging, Christmas-inspired responses we received from schools:
“One Advent project was collecting money in our Advent banks to share with the children directly involved in the Holy Childhood Mission. Our students collected over $800.00, which was even more than last year’s collection!“
“Our school is located in a former parish hall and rectory. Last year, just days before the Christmas break, a woman arrived at our school door asking if it was still a parish office because she needed some help with food and toys for her little girl for Christmas. One of our staff members informed her that the building was now a school but told her to come back the next day. The staff member visited the middle school classrooms explaining the situation of this woman in need and the students excitedly began planning how they could help her. Within 24 hours, our middle school students were loading this woman’s car with bags upon bags of groceries, Christmas treats, gift cards and gifts for her daughter which were all brought in by the middle school students and their families.“
“Operating to support local families at Christmas, our school ran their annual Christmas Hamper program for the month of December.“
“Our students created Christmas cards for the residents of a Nursing Home, in the hope that with this simple act we could brighten someone’s spirit and bring them a little love and joy during the holiday season.“
“Prior to the Christmas season, one of our Advent projects was to collect food for two less fortunate families. Students collected all the staples required, and then added many more items/money to help the families have a wonderful Christmas season!“
“We created a COVID-friendly Christmas concert to spread the Christmas spirit to our community. The children enjoyed preparing the virtual concert for our community. Children were able to share with family around the world! The community responded with wonderful words of praise and thanks for the event!“
“Our school was collecting new and gently used gloves, mitts, scarves and hats. The donations were placed outside our school on the fence, for our local community who are in need.“
We hope that these stories continue to spread and inspire others across Canada to put Christian mercy into action this Advent. Catholic Schools have the enormous opportunity to be beacons of hope in society and culture, offering the merciful heart of Jesus to those around them. May our Catholic students continue the Church’s legacy of bringing the merciful heart of Jesus to our society and world.
If you’d like to give the gift of Catholic Education this Christmas, consider donating to our Toonies for Tuition Campaign!
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