Catholic schools focus on raising servant leaders

by Sandra Engelland

North Texas Catholic

January 28, 2020

A Holy Trinity Catholic School student writes a Valentine's Day card for the elderly in a nursing home January 27.A Holy Trinity Catholic School student writes a Valentine's Day card for the elderly in a nursing home January 27.
A Holy Trinity Catholic School student writes a Valentine's Day card for the elderly in a nursing home January 27. (NTC/Jayme Donahue)


GRAPEVINE — On the second day of Catholic Schools Week, second graders at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine used red, white, and pink construction paper, markers, and glue to create Valentine’s cards with personal notes for elderly parishioners who are homebound or in assisted living centers.

“I like that it helps other people feel better,” said second-grader Jacob Elliott.

Classmate Gabrielle Kadoko said, “It makes them not feel lonely anymore.”

Their teacher Tory Hoss said that students write to the elderly several times a year. After students sent cards at Thanksgiving, one of the recipients wrote back to say how much the letter meant to him.

Hoss said the service activity helps her students become more aware of the needs of others.

Meanwhile, seventh and eighth graders participated in panel discussions about community service to answer questions from students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades.

Older students talked about helping as altar servers, assisting at Vacation Bible School, volunteering at community dinners, delivering food to the elderly, and children in need and much more.

After the panel, several eighth graders talked about why they serve.

Zach Sustaita said he looked up to altar servers when he was younger. Now he appreciates the opportunity to serve.

“It brings me closer to God,” Sustaita said.

Jack Workman volunteers with the Miracle League of Southlake to help children with disabilities play baseball.

“I just like seeing the reaction on kids’ faces,” Workman said. “These kids are some of our most vulnerable people, and providing a safe and fun environment for them makes me feel good.”

Kelli Bennett plays flute in the school’s worship band during Mass.

“I believe it definitely helps you to help others be more involved in Mass, and you also get to express your love for music,” Bennett said.

Holy Trinity Catholic School students have a panel discussion about their involvement with community service January 27.Holy Trinity Catholic School students have a panel discussion about their involvement with community service January 27.
Holy Trinity Catholic School students have a panel discussion about their involvement with community service January 27. (NTC/Jayme Donahue)


Middle school students at Holy Trinity are required to complete community service hours: six for sixth graders, seven for seventh graders, and 10 for eighth graders.

Serving at school, like the worship band or helping kindergartners to their cars after school, does not count toward those hours, said Jackie Cummings, middle school religion teacher.

The requirement and other opportunities to serve allow students to develop the habit and desire to help others, Cummings said.

“This is a way we encourage them to be leaders and use their gifts and talents,” she said.

Fifth-grader Jack Swindle said he is inspired to serve by the example set by older students.

“A lot of people you know are doing good things,” he said.

Deacon Jeff Heiple, principal at Holy Trinity, said helping others is an important part of the Catholic faith. All students at the school do community service projects, from pre-K students and their families donating rice, beans, and blankets to Catholic Charities to eighth graders choosing places to serve.

“Through service, we teach kids empathy, humility, and gratitude,” Dcn. Heiple said.

Across the Diocese of Fort Worth, Catholic schools share the foundational practice of serving others.

At Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton, classes have ongoing projects as well as a monthly school-wide focus.

In recent months, students and their families have collected items for Loreto House in Denton, which assists women dealing with unexpected pregnancies; the Monsignor King Outreach Center helping people who are homeless; Christmas Boxes of Joy for impoverished children in the Caribbean; and more.

Immaculate Conception’s Principal Elaine Schad said that educators focus on developing a servant’s heart in the kids.

“Not only does Christ call us to do it, the world needs these kids to do it,” Schad said.

A few of the school’s ongoing programs have made a big impact on the community.

Their Service Learning Garden, which includes a greenhouse and solar panels, teaches students about gardening and allows school officials to donate hundreds of pounds of sweet potatoes, okra, and green beans to area soup kitchens.

The school also participates in Denton’s Sustainable Schools program by recycling and reusing materials and teaching relevant lessons.

Schad said a committee of students came up with ideas for Catholic Schools Week. They are asking families to donate cans of soup for people in need. Fun activities include a prize for guessing the number of cans that are collected and a class can sculpting contest. Kids will create can sculptures with a Catholic theme.

All the activities are geared toward building servant leaders, Schad said.

“You’re either me focused or others focused,” she said. “If you’re very busy serving your neighbor, you’ll have a much more joyful life. It’s not a problem-free life, but it’s what Christ calls you to do.”

A student at Holy Trinity Catholic School makes a valentine for someone in assisted living.

GRAPEVINE — On the second day of Catholic Schools Week, second graders at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine used red, white, and pink construction paper, markers, and glue to create Valentine’s cards with personal notes for elderly parishioners who are homebound or in assisted living centers.

Published (until 1/28/2035)
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