By Ruth Heil
Special to The CS&T
NEWTOWN SQUARE – The cafeteria of St. Anastasia School was transformed into a sewing shop, card shop and sandwich shop as activities commemorated the Martin Luther King Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 19.
In the morning, prayers were stitched into brightly colored fabric to create pillowcases and quilts for the patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Specialty Care Center. On the other side of the room, youngsters spread peanut butter and jelly onto sandwich bread while others decorated cards with sincere expressions for the men at St. John’s Hospice, an archdiocesan facility for homeless men in Philadelphia.
The day also prepared students for Catholic Schools Week in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which begins Jan. 25. With the theme “Celebrate Service,” the week helps focus attention on St. Anastasia’s mission: to prepare students to lead lives of service to God and neighbor, lives that will proclaim the message of Jesus Christ throughout the community.
In the afternoon, a group of upper-grade girls provided lunchtime companionship to the residents of spanine Providence Village, an archdiocesan residential care facility in Springfield for developmentally disabled girls and women. The students also helped to clean the facility’s chapel, while back at home, both students and parishioners were scrubbing St. Anastasia Church.
Meanwhile, parents drove fifth- to eighth-grade boys to Springfield for a favored event that felt more like play than work: a pickup basketball game with the residents of Don Guanella School, an archdiocesan residential facility for developmentally disabled young men.
“The boys at Don Guanella know ahead of time that the boys from St. Anastasia are coming, and they’ll be wearing their basketball jerseys ready to go,” said Brad Kohlhepp, St. Anastasia’s principal. “Our kids are intrinsically taken in, realizing that they are doing something better for others.”
The quilts and pillowcases took all day to create, so they are slated for delivery in the future. However, the sandwiches and cards were hand delivered that afternoon to St. John’s Hospice.
Kohlhepp was impressed by the dedication and willingness of the students to serve. “You see the students grow, and you see them grow in their faith,” he said.
The service projects were chosen because of the ongoing relationships with St. Anastasia and the facilities. For example, a few of the school’s students were once patients at CHOP.
The friendship with spanine Providence blossomed when three seventh-grade girls accompanied the residents to Mass one Sunday. The moment was so moving that this one-time event became a regular occurrence.
Monday’s Day of Service had a similar effect. Inspired by the positive impact from last year’s two-hour event, this year was extended to a full day. That’s just the kind of result Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have had in mind.
Ruth Heil is a freelance writer in Green Lane, Montgomery County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.