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January 25 - 31, 2009

Catholic Schools Week 2009:
“Catholic Schools Celebrate Service”

Catholic Schools Week celebrations have become a tradition since its beginning in 1974.  The various themes assigned over the years have pointed to the outstanding characteristics of education in the Catholic School system.  However the 2009 theme, Catholic Schools Celebrate Service, is a departure from the usual as it calls for outreach and action in response to needs apparent in the local and global community.  Our call comes from Jesus’ life, works and words.  Baptized in his name, we are expected to carry on the work of his hands in the world.  Catholic Schools Week 2009 offers the opportunity for Catholic students to proclaim their presence in the community through meaningful acts of love serving the stranger, homeless, hungry, naked, sick, and imprisoned.

No doubt all Catholic School communities have planned approaches for engaging the student body in service projects.  Often these projects center around the Christmas season which naturally lends itself to responding to the needy.  Lent is another usual time for planning service or works of charity connected to sacrificing, a common theme of the Lenten season.   One challenge for Catholic School faculties, student council leadership and the student population is to search for new and different avenues for practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy.  Another challenge is to develop a year long plan making service to others an integral part of the school curriculum.  Both challenges will take dedicated commitment to the task of investigating and organizing.

Jesus’ actions in response to the needy certainly must have made his disciples uncomfortable and as well as left them wondering what following Jesus might truly mean.  Imagine what they were thinking when they observed Jesus befriending the Samaritan woman at the well or developing a relationship with Mary Magdalene, a known sinner.  Jesus was clearly choosing not to follow the common practices valued by the society of his time.  Outcasts were to be treated as such.  Those considered to be lesser individuals were to be shunned or at least ignored.  For ourselves a reflective reading of Jesus’ encounter and healing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and his unpredictable friendship with the known cheat and liar, Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) will lead us to wonder about the depth and width of our service.  Who among us invites the known sinner to supper or invites those with contagious disease into our homes and families?  The way of Jesus serving others to his death demands courage and fortitude from those who would be his disciples.

A story is told about a German community immediately following the end of World War II.  In the middle of the town square stood a statue of Jesus with his hands extended in welcome and friendship.  During the destructive bombing, the hands of the statue were broken off and shattered.  The town’s people chose to leave the statue in its home place.  They also decided not to have the broken hands replaced.  Rather they placed a sign by the statue proclaiming:  “He has no hands but yours!”  What a fabulous embodiment of Matthew 25:31-46 and visual reminder of Jesus’ command to serve.

Today’s world presents people with different needs than those encountered during Jesus’ time.  A cure has been found for leprosy and sufferers no longer have to deal with the imprisonment of being outcasts from society.  It is time to ask who the outcasts and imprisoned are in 2009.  Jesus expects that we will welcome these new strangers and free the currently enslaved.  Being stewards of God’s creation has been our responsibility since the Garden of Eden.  Decade upon decade, concerns about clean water and air for future generations are in the daily press and voiced in news programs.  What might we do to make a difference for the benefit of all the living? 

Catholic Schools Celebrate Service is a tremendously challenging theme.  Faculties and students who take it seriously and consider the deeper meaning of service will become communities where faith is active, positively influencing the lives of many.  The first apostles and disciples grasped the deepest meaning of Jesus’ care for others and they affected lives in ways which have not been equaled since.  Choose to make a difference as Catholic Schools Celebrate Service!

What difference does this make?

  1. When was a time I chose to make a difference by reaching out to someone in need?  What motivated me to make that choice?  How did I feel while doing the service and after it was complete?  Did I make a difference?
  2. How much do I know about the potential ministry opportunities in my parish community?  Have I researched how I might be involved and found my particular way of making a difference?  Have I considered volunteering to work with or start an Outreach Committee in my parish?
  3. Have I ever written, emailed or called my congressman or representative about issues before the legislature which would positively affect the lives of the homeless, sick, imprisoned or hungry of our society?  If not, what keeps me from making that contact and speaking for the less fortunate?
  4. Who in my immediate or extended family is looking for someone to care for their needs?  Am I willing to move out of my comfort zone and respond to this individual’s needs?  What will I do?
  5. Read Matthew 25:31-46.  What is my reaction to a judgment scene which presents such clear choices and profound outcomes?  Consider the words of Pope St. Gregory the Great:  “The proof of love is in the works.”  How do they further enhance Jesus’ message about service in Matthew 25?

All School Project
Fifty Lanterns

“Fifty Lanterns” is a great project for school age children because it serves children and families.

Unbelievable as it is, nearly 75% of the world’s population does not have electricity.  Once the sun goes down children in families living without artificial sources of light cannot read or do their homework.  Family time is limited to daylight hours.

Fifty Lanterns encourages families with electrical service to help purchase solar lanterns to be delivered to families needing night light.  Each solar lantern costs $25.00.  Students give from their allowance or piggy bank savings to help with purchases.  Individual classrooms or grade groupings could set a goal to purchase a certain number of lanterns.  In addition, a simple poster to which lanterns can be added as each purchase price is reached would be a great visual for children.  The founder of the Fifty Lanterns project delivers the lanterns personally to families in third world countries.  Check out www.50lanterns.org to find out more information about how your school can participate.

            

Prayer for Catholic Schools Week

Lord Jesus, Son of God,

Thank you for the gift of Catholic education.

Day after day, week after week,
    you give us many opportunities to grow and learn.
Help us respond to the gift of faith so that we may be recognized as your disciples.

Amen.

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