Third graders in St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, took to heart the Lenten pillar of almsgiving by way of a piggy bank to help others.

According to teacher Dana J. Hoover, the students were moved to meet Sister Lisa Valentini, and hear her compelling experiences about being a missionary and working with children in Haiti.

“She was dynamic, inspiring and truly the hands and feet of Christ,” Hoover said of Sister Lisa, a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who visited the school in February.

“When we got back to the classroom, the students could not stop talking about what Sister Lisa had shared with them.”

Hoover said that when she and fellow third grade teacher, Annabelle Certo, started their Lenten unit in religion class, many students wanted to make a Lenten promise to collect money for Sister Lisa to help the children of Haiti.

“They were adamant that it be their own money,” Hoover said. “They did not want any money from adults. This idea was neither mine nor Mrs. Certo’s.”

To raise funds, Hoover said one student, Olivia Maleson, started a bracelet-making business while other students brought in coins and bills that they would have spent on snacks.

“… Every single day, children were putting money into our Sister Lisa piggy bank,” Hoover said, noting that the final amount raised was $141 and some change.

“This was all money from the children,” Hoover emphasized, then added, that unless the adults purchased a bracelet, they “did not hand over money.”

“This project was ‘from kids, for kids,’” she said. “Truly, the students’ goal was to help. Sister Lisa touched their hearts and really made them want to model what she was doing.”

The third graders’ efforts caught the attention of Father Peter James Alindogan, diocesan missions director, who said, “The students’ enthusiastic participation in the mission of the Church, through the inspiration of Sister Lisa’s talk, is a product of good Catholic education, upbringing and formation.

“There is already a missionary spark of a fire alive and burning in the hearts of our children,” he continued. “Whenever we make them aware of the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in mission lands, we tap anew that fire leading them to creative ways in helping, initiating and sharing.”