Students in St. Joan of Arc School, Marlton, pose with some of the 2,000 pounds of food they helped collect for the needy in November. Courtesy photo
Students in St. Joan of Arc School, Marlton, pose with some of the 2,000 pounds of food they helped collect for the needy in November. Courtesy photo

By Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese | Correspondent

The Catholic doctrine of love thy neighbor rings loud and clear throughout the Trenton Diocese, and schools are using Catholic Schools Week as an opportunity to highlight what they do in terms of works of service and helping others in need.

St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, will continue a longstanding annual tradition of collecting donations for two tribal schools in the Philippines. The schools are located in the remote villages of Kitorok and Ilian in the mountain range of Santa Maria, Davao del Sur. The nearest town for the Tagakaolo tribal people is a two-hour car ride away.

Students have made a yearly commitment to collect and donate school supplies and other needed items for the villagers. This year, the upper grade students will collect and donate toothbrushes and toothpaste in an effort to encourage the Tagakaolo students to maintain good oral hygiene. Each of the lower grades is assigned a school supply to donate, such as notebooks, pens, markers, crayons, glue sticks and tape. Any teaching materials, such as learning toys or aids, math books or activity and coloring books, are also needed.

“At St. Ann School, we prepare our students to succeed academically, to develop social responsibilities and to nurture an intimate relationship with God,” said Alessandra Fallon, the school’s director of admissions and marketing.

“Through many service projects, students grow in faith and are prepared for Christian leadership, and the CSW service project is one of the many chances we offer them to dedicate their time and fellowship to those in need, taking on active citizenship that contributes to the local community and beyond.”

St. Joan of Arc School, Marlton, will continue its weekly collections for missions, as well as introduce a new project in support of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who staff the parish and school. Three of the sisters will travel to Brownsville, Texas, at the end of January to help immigrants who are entering the country legally. The sisters will provide the new arrivals with small wrist bags that contain a pen, crayon, plastic bag and paper – necessities for taking notes and communicating on their journey. The sisters hope to distribute 1,000 bags that will be filled by the Marlton school students.

The project will be just another example of how students reach out to those in need. In November, they answered God’s Call, the theme for the 2018-19 school year, by rising to a different challenge. Earlier in the year, the school had collected so much food for the local food pantry that they were challenged by a parishioner and food bank volunteer to collect even more during November. Students exceeded the challenge. More than 3,000 pounds of food ended up being donated by the parish, 2,000 pounds of which came from the school families.

“I continue to be in awe of our school and parish community when they respond to those in need,” said Mary Clare Brandt, director of admissions and marketing in St. Joan of Arc School. “Service is such an important part of who we are at St. Joan’s … All that we do here is rooted in Christ’s teachings and our Gospel values. When we see our students living these values every day, it gives all of us great hope for the future of our world.”

Students in Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro, have also been busy. Each classroom collected all the fixings for a complete Thanksgiving meal in November, which was then individually boxed and donated to needy families. The students also collected toys for the annual Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, Christmas toy drive.  The upper grades assisted sisters in the convent with donations for the residents of St. Francis House Inn, Philadelphia, which provides shelter for the homeless and needy.