By Kathy Schmugge
COLUMBIA — Nov. 19 was not a normal school day at Cardinal Newman School.
Classrooms were empty or rearranged and the youth were not in uniforms but working clothes. Their job was to experience and express the lessons they have learned in class about Christ-like love by participating in the special activities of the day.
Ninth- and 10th-graders left the school premises and visited area nursing homes, food distribution centers and other places where they did service for others in the community.
Several youth spent the day at St. Joseph Church assisting the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the three phases of their outreach ministry, particularly the pantry work. Some stocked the shelves, while others went to the Harvest Hope warehouse to purchase food and essentials, and later they unloaded the boxes to stock the shelves with more items.
Bill Hartnett, a member of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Joseph, helped supervise the youth, making sure they had hands on experience.
“The young people observed how we interviewed and interfaced with the needy who came for assistance. They saw the look of utter joy in one man’s face when we (St. Vincent de Paul Society) agreed to help him with his electric bill,” said Hartnett.
He was happy to see one youth join in during the interviews, making a personal connection with the client, an important aspect of the work of St. Vincent de Paul.
“These events continue to be one of the most important things we do. Preparing students for the real world through the workshops, service, and retreats is fundamental to their continued success,” said Jim McIntyre, principal of the school.
Two retreats were taking place simultaneously for eighth- and 11th-graders. The juniors focused on their faith and graduation. They made a symbol of what their class represented and discussed what legacy they would leave behind at the school. The eighth-graders discussed church as a community and did many interactive activities to help drive the point home.
Seventh- and 12th-graders joined together in several diversity workshops and later broke into small discussion group. The purpose of the workshop was to widen their experience and broaden their idea of who is their neighbor,” said teacher Tony Haughey.
Haughey’s leadership in creating a service-oriented school body has been impressive. During one of the small group discussions involving seventh-graders, the teacher proposed the question, “If given the choice I would not want to be a friends with someone who was not of my cultural background?” Did they agree or disagree?
Molly LaPorte disagreed because all of her friends are from different ethnic backgrounds, and she explained how she has not really had a choice.
“Look at me,” she said. “I am a red-headed Irish Catholic in Columbia.”
Reenea Harrison-Cook, Ph.D., director of Guidance at Cardinal Newman School, worked with Molly Sutcliffe and Tony Haughey to have activities, prayers and meditations that would foster the students’ understanding of diversity, tolerance and respect for others.
“The purpose of these workshops is to educate our students not only academically, but also socially and to help them acquire enduring life skills and an appreciation and respect for everyone, including persons who may be different from them in some way,” said Harrison-Cook.
“We have also emphasized Jesus’ commandment that we love everyone and have a sincere commitment to serving our fellow man and fellow woman,” she said.