Year of Mercy brought to life for Rumson religious education students
By Rosemary Daniels | Correspondent
For religious education students in Holy Cross Parish, Rumson, the significance of the Year of Mercy has been brought to life in unique and interesting ways.
In the spirit of this jubilee year, the more than 500 students and their families learned what it means to be merciful by developing a deeper understanding of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and finding opportunities to practice them at home, in school, in the workplace and in their communities. Their efforts resulted in creating their own versions of “Holy Doors of Mercy,” which they proudly had on display the weekend of April 9-10.
Sallie Kabash, parish director of religious education, said as a way to educate the students on Works of Mercy and how they are called by Jesus to show mercy in their daily lives, she created a guide that explained each Work of Mercy and encouraged her catechists to focus on two Works of Mercy each week starting in January.
The guide, which was adapted for all grade levels, included a weekly worksheet which explained each act, then each child was asked to look for an opportunity to perform an act of mercy as part of his or her weekly assignment. The children also kept journals and were also given opportunities to share what they had learned with their families.
Kabash and parents were pleased to see how the children embraced the lessons on mercy.
Tara Leibee, whose two daughters are enrolled in the religious education program,” said “It’s nice to have the girls learn this… It’s not just reading; it’s hands-on experience, and they can relate to it.”
Noting that four of her children are in the religious education program, Teresa Sperber said, “Sallie did a great job of introducing the concept. She tells them mercy is a part of our everyday lives. It was easier to teach them after her introduction. She could apply the lesson at all levels, from first grade to eighth. There’s always someone in need.”
The children, likewise, were pleased with the unique approach on how to learn about the Year of Mercy.
Eight-year old Cecilia Sperber spoke of keeping closer contact with her great uncle who lives in Connecticut and is very ill.
“Now I call him, and send him a lot of nice notes and crafts,” she said.
Cecilia’s 12-year-old brother, Paul Sperber, made the connection between chores with which he was familiar, such as cleaning out his closet, and the people who could benefit from that action.
“I realize now that some people really need the stuff that I can’t use anymore, and that they live in a place that doesn’t have everything I have,” Paul stated.
While 10-year-old Brianne Garvey is accustomed to making donations of food to Lunchbreak, a local organization that provides food to people in need, she said this year, she and her family “gave more” food to Lunchbreak because “we realize how hungry people are.”
Emily Gangi’s good work included lending her coat to a friend who forgot hers during a fire drill.
“She was freezing,” Emily said of her friend. “I felt happy to help her because she was really cold.”
While the students easily grasped the Works of Mercy such as donating food and providing warm clothing, other works such as burying the dead was a little more difficult for them to understand. However, according to religious education parent and catechist Carol Gangi, students came to relate to that work by choosing to visit the grave of a family member, or call a friend or family member who had recently lost a loved one.
In creating the “Doors of Mercy,” Kabash had the students in the younger grades draw pictures of their various works of mercy on the doors, while the older students wrote testimonies about their chosen works. The completed doors were proudly displayed in the St. Joseph room in the lower level of the church the weekend of April 9-10, and parishioners were invited to browse the doors before and after all weekend Masses.
Kabash said she regards the Holy Doors project as being an overwhelming success, and it is her hope hope that the idea of showing mercy, and finding ways to show mercy stay with the students for many years to come.
“This is an opportunity to bring Jesus to a real level. This is what Jesus wants us to do, and what we are all asked to do as Catholics,” said Laura Burns, mother of 11-year-old religious education student, Megan Burns.