“I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” James 2.18
There was a lot of work to do on the St. Joseph Parish grounds before Superfest opened. Amid the thuds of hammers and the buzz of drills was the sound of laughter. Fresh from school Mass, St. Joseph eighth-graders went up and down the parish center stairs carrying oversize items for the silent auction.
They weren’t skipping class. They were practicing their faith.
Learning about the faith is important. But as St. James asks, “What good is it…if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”
Our BCACS believes following Christ means caring for our church and our neighbors. Students start as soon as pre-school, bringing cans of food for the needy at Mass and offering prayers for the sick in class. Just as students’ understanding of the Catholic faith deepens each year, so does their understanding of Christian service.
St. Joseph Middle School transitions students from simple acts of service to sustained community awareness. The school coordinates student projects with organizations like Haven of Rest, Hands-On Battle Creek, Operation Shoebox, Community Inclusive Recreation, the Charitable Union, the Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and our three Battle Creek Catholic parishes.
“We are trying to give them the idea that when they get out of school their community will be much greater,” Don Shafer, St. Joseph Middle School Theology teacher, said.
By eighth grade graduation, every student will have clocked a minimum of 45 service hours. Many students will exceed that number.
Service plays an important role in preparing our middle school students for Confirmation, which is why specific service hours are reserved for Corporal or Spiritual Acts of Mercy.
“We want them to understand what it means to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and tie [these Corporal Acts of Mercy] to some very basic beliefs we have in the Catholic faith,” Mr. Shafer said. “We’re trying to promote what that looks like and how we can help those people who are less fortunate.”
Although the school prays the rosary regularly together, each student must offer a minimum of four rosaries on their own. It is a great way to employ one of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy – to pray for the living and the dead.
Having students help with Mass and parish-based service projects, like Sunday Suppers or the Giving Tree, lays a pathway to adulthood in the church.
“[These projects] get our kids into the parish to see what it is like to support the church,” Mr. Shafer said.
This on-the-job training for life as a Christian is more than an education, it is following in the footsteps of Christ.