Imagine such complete silence during change of class at a high school that you could hear a pin drop. That’s what happened not once but four times on Feb. 11 at Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown when more than 1,100 students walked the hallways during the change of four classes in utter silence in solidarity with those in the world who cannot practice their faith publicly or who suffer because of their faith.
In addition, 25 students stood in strategic spots in the hallways during those period changes holding religious articles such as pictures, statues and posters as physical reminders that there are places in the world where religious freedom is not tolerated.
The activity was part of Global Awareness Month at Bishop Shanahan and the theme for this year’s month-long effort to bring about change in both local and overseas communities is “Live Simply So Others May Simply Live.”
The month is broken into four weekly themes. The first week’s focus was “Hunger for God” and students were asked to fast from selfishness in addition to the activity of silence in the halls.
The second week’s focus was “Hunger for Food” and a collection of canned goods was taken up all week in theology classes. Over 8,100 non-perishable canned and packaged food items were collected and picked up by the Chester County Food Bank for distribution.
Shanahan alumnus Derek Fiorenza, founder of Fiorenza’s Food For Friends (F4), helped coordinate the food pickup. Some students voluntarily fasted at their lunch periods during the week, eating only crackers and water to experience what those who truly hunger feel.
Week three’s focus was “Hunger for Knowledge” in which students prayed daily for those who do not have access to a good education and also for those who teach. Students brought in new or slightly used children’s books to be distributed to the St. Agnes Day Room in West Chester. Special learning aids were distributed to students in their English classes to help give them an idea of how someone with a reading disability or dyslexia sees information, and to allow them to have compassion for those who have difficulty in learning. The fasting activity for this week was to fast from TV and Netflix and to read a book instead.
Upon learning about all those in the world who hunger for knowledge, a Shanahan student wrote, “I should be grateful for my education and my teachers who care about me. My education gives me so many great opportunities that some people can only dream about. I should never take it for granted.”
Global Awareness Month culminated this week (Feb. 26) with a focus on “Hunger for Community” in which students collected household items such as window cleaner, dish soap, and other necessities that will fill “welcome baskets” for those moving into new or renovated homes through Habitat for Humanity.
The week’s activity is an affirmation exercise where every student in every theology class will write his or her name at the top of a piece of paper. Those papers will be passed around the room to have all the other students write positive statements on them about the student named at the top. The exercise is aimed at building up the student community at Shanahan and to also help the students understand the power of being kind to others.
Students fasted from social media during the week and engaged in more face-to-face conversations.
Global Awareness Month began three years ago as part of a school-wide initiative to prepare all Bishop Shanahan students to be critical thinkers and moral stewards in a rapidly evolving global environment. By learning about social issues at a global level, the students are learning how to start making a difference at the local level.