Juniors at Fenwick are required to complete 30 hours of service to fulfill the third year of the Christian Service Project. For freshman year, students participate in a charity initiative in their Theology classes. Sophomores spend a day visiting people in need around Chicago and its suburbs. Junior year is when our service becomes more independent. Although a list of pre-approved volunteer sites is provided, it is really up to us to decide where we want to serve.
The purpose of the Christian Service Project is to serve people who are considered poor or in need. Our ministry experiences introduce us to Christ in unexpected places. Many juniors struggle with figuring out where they want to serve.
Since the year I went into seventh grade, I have spent one or two days a week each summer at Soaring Eagle Academy, a school [in Lombard, IL] for kids with autism and related disorders, which are commonly viewed as a severe disadvantage to a child. The students often struggle with academic and social interactions. (See sidebar.) At Soaring Eagle, students develop interaction and communication skills while achieving higher levels of learning.
Many parents of children with autism decide to enroll their kids in a school such as Soaring Eagle. Therefore, a large number of my peers do not often interact with students who are affected by autism, so these students are often overlooked. Christ spoke for all people while he lived on earth, and he showed intense companionship and love to them. Christ is present in the students of Soaring Eagle in the boundless love they spread.
Fenwick’s newest Dominican brother explains how student members of the Class of 2019 have ‘met Jesus’ through their junior year Christian Service Project.
By Br. John Steilberg O.P.
The Gospels reveal to us a very basic story line just after Jesus’ resurrection on the first Easter Sunday. Soon after discovering the empty tomb, the disciples meet Jesus repeatedly. They kept meeting Jesus personally at various places and moments. After encountering Jesus in person, they were motivated and inspired to go and tell others. Our junior class knows all about this basic cycle of encountering Jesus personally, then going out and telling others about their encounter.
Just like those early disciples right after the resurrection, our juniors are meeting Jesus. Our juniors have been encountering personally in the face of the poor, the lonely, the forgotten, the unloved. At Fenwick, as part of the Christian Service Project where Gospel virtues, Catholic morality and Catholic social teaching are combined with our theology curriculum, our faith is put into action. Our juniors are currently completing a service project where they have been out in the community performing the corporal works of mercy and meeting Jesus face to face in those they serve.
Let’s listen to our juniors describe how they encountered Jesus.
“You know, you see the homeless on the streets downtown and such. But by working at this shelter, I have gotten to know many of the people from this area who come there needing help,” the student says. “I am shocked at how much need is in my own neighborhood.”
Another junior has been working at a food pantry. Serving there and meeting many of the neighbors in need has had an effect on her and how she views what is happening in her community. She even mentions the effects it has had on her own family and their approach to material things. She explains, “Every night after serving at the food pantry I sit down and talk to my mom about what happened. Just the other night we were talking about how many people come to the food pantry in need of food. Mom and I talked about how well off we are. We discussed how maybe we really don’t need so many things. We talked about how maybe we do not really need to buy that second loaf of bread.”
Friends of Fenwick, pay close attention to what these two juniors have shared. This is God speaking. This is the Holy Spirit at work in Friar Nation. This is what it means to be a friar. Listen carefully to their words and you will listen in to their personal conversation with Jesus.
We are very blessed here at Fenwick. We have been given so much by God, and we have so much to be thankful for. One thing I am thankful for is the incredible and inspirational service of our juniors this past year in the Christian Service Project. They are inspiring. Let us all take a moment to thank them personally for their service and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for sending us young people willing to serve others through the corporal works of mercy.
About the Author
Brother John Steilberg joined Fenwick’s Theology Department last summer, at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. He teaches freshman theology and organizes the Christian Service Project, whose mission is to put faith into action. “It is an opportunity to meet Christ in the poor and marginalized of our community and an opportunity to serve others as taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he explains. “All Fenwick Friars participate in the Christian Service Project as we bring the corporal works of mercy to those in need.”