Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award
St. Francis Xavier School
Saint Francis Xavier Parish School promotes its Catholic identity among our approximately 700 students from preschool through eighth grade in all that we do. The school’s principal, faculty, staff and parent volunteers are dedicated to living out the school’s motto of We Pray, We Learn, We Serve in every aspect of our curriculum and extracurricular activities. To that end, the school community has committed itself to providing an integrated service program that connects meaningful service opportunities with curriculum-based learning and prayerful reflection. We are especially proud of how this innovative program promotes our Catholic identity and, therefore, would like to nominate St. Francis Xavier’s school-wide service program for the Catholic Schools for Tomorrow Award.
Each grade selected a service theme to focus on for the 2008-09 school year. Guided by the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching, our themes are: God’s Creation, Aging and Elderly, Immigration, Poverty and Homelessness, Hunger, Veterans and Service Members, Special Needs and Disabilities, Human and Civil Rights, and Social Justice. The three components for each theme are: (1) EDUCATION, (2) TAKING ACTION and (3) REFLECTION which overlap throughout the year. Our goal is for students to make a connection with the people and causes they serve throughout the school year. EDUCATION consists of teachers and parent volunteers introducing the theme and organization they will work with, and using hand-outs, power-point presentations, computer videos, books, field trips and engaging group activities for continuing education throughout the year.
Students TAKING ACTION is comprised of numerous activities including: (1) organizing a grade-wide or school-wide collection of food, warm clothing, school supplies, toys and household items to assist several organizations, (2) visiting with nursing home residents and staying in touch with them throughout the year, (3) serving meals at a soup kitchen, (4) setting up cots and making desserts and snack bags for our community BEDS program, (5) packing food at an international distribution center, (6) planting bulbs for a garden and cleaning up a local forest preserve, (7) hosting a mass and reception for local veterans, (8) partnering in buddy programs with special needs individuals, (9) participating in fundraisers such as walk-a-thons, and (10) organizing a school-wide recycling program and “Green Day”, among others. The possibilities for taking action are limitless and guided by the students’ creativity and empowerment. Our goal is for the students to interact with the people they serve in a myriad of ways so they have a fuller awareness of those in need and how their service makes a difference.
Finally, PRAYERFUL REFLECTION is ongoing both in school and at home. Students learn a theme-related prayer to guide them through the year. In addition, students participate in small group discussions, journaling, prayer services and art as ways of reflecting on their service experiences. We had a very moving all-school service liturgy at the beginning of the school year which included a processional of banners each classroom decorated related to their service theme. The students brought up symbols of their service themes as part of the offertory and lit candles during the petitions on behalf of all those we hope to reach through our service.
As stated in our student handbook, we envision students of St. Francis Xavier School, “filled with the Holy Spirit, to have an awareness of others and their rights, evidenced by their respect and responsibility for the welfare of others and the care of the earth”. In promoting our Catholic identity through this integrated school-wide service program, we hope to send out followers of Christ who are “men and women for others” in all that they do with their lives.