Earlier this month, students in STAR Catholic Schools celebrated Catholic Education Week with this year’s theme being “Rejoice and Be Glad”.
A key point to the celebrations were recognizing the work students in the district do towards making the world a better place.
For Father Lacombe Catholic School in Lacombe, students took part in a number of social justice teachings that focused on charitable acts and initiatives.
St. Katherine Drexel Place
For a number of years, Father Lacombe has been involved with St. Katherine Drexel Place in Edmonton, which offers supportive transitional housing for women and children in need through Catholic Social Services.
This year, students created move out baskets which are given to women as they transition to more permanent housing.
“During Lent, all the kids created big baskets for the woman at St. Katherine Homeless Shelter. When they left the shelter, they would have a move out basket ready for them,” Father Lacombe Principal Maria Wagner said.
“We actually collected 15 baskets full of things like bedding, fabric, toiletries — everything you would need to start a new home.”
After creating the baskets, Grade 8 students delivered the them personally to Edmonton where they had to the opportunity to hear the stories of what women and children at St. Katherine Drexel Place go through
“We chose St. Katherine Drexel because we felt it was meaningful for kids to see a homeless shelter for women and children,” Wagner said. “That is a social injustice that exists in our province and we felt it would be a meaningful project to share with our students.
“We did the move out baskets during Lent and last year we did Wrapped in Love where we provided bedding and other items for the 13 units at the shelter.”
In the past, students have also provided for Thanksgiving meals at the shelter and other initiatives.
“We have really focused our attention on this place because there is so much they need and we found it very relatable for our students,” Wagner added.
Miurine School Project
Students at Father Lacombe also took part in in an international project in Kenya, Africa.
After connecting with students from Miurine School in Kenya, students decided to fundraise for the students who were in need of a dining area to eat their lunches during school.
Darlene Konnik, inclusive education coach at Father Lacombe, felt the project would be perfect for their junior high students.
“It is a community school in Kenya and they realized over the years that if they supply food for the students, it would lead to better outcomes,” Konnik said. “They would see better attendance and the students would be more involved with the lessons but they found that eating outside wasn’t working.
“The project we took on was to help fundraise for a dining hall where the students can eat their lunch.”
Konnik said the project shows that their students are aware of the needs of the international community.
“I showed them a video they had sent from the students in Kenya and it was specific to our students,” she said. “That led to our students jumping right on board because it made it more personal — they could see the students that they would be supporting with this dining hall.
“They could see the issue and they could put faces to the names.”
The students continue to stay connected through social media as the project progresses.
Wagner said social justice will continue to be part of student’s education at Father Lacombe
“We see that it is not fair and wonder why we are just letting it happen. As Catholics we are called to look at injustice in the world and do something about it,” she said.
Wagner said their work so far has been contagious, with three other schools joining their efforts to help women and children at St. Katherine Drexel Place.
Father Lacombe students also decided they wanted to make a difference in the world
“They got involved with Blankets for Hope, which is a U.S. organization that gives out blankets to the homeless,” Wagner said. “The blankets were sent to us and then the Grade 1s put messages inside the blankets.
“Now the blankets are being shared with homeless shelters in Red Deer. If there are any leftover, we will take them into Calgary.”
Wagner added, “The more kids see things happening, they are wanting to do more and more and they see that it does make a difference.”