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St. Joseph students are convicted during Lent

Teacher ‘arrested’ as part of special Lenten fundraiser

By Karen Bonfig
Special to The Witness

NEW HAMPTON — The big question at St. Joseph Community School in New Hampton this Lent is: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

On Ash Wednesday, Father Brian Dellaert talked about being arrested, finding evidence, about witnesses that could testify for us, and about being found guilty … guilty of the “crime” of being a Christian, one who tries to follow Christ.

That same day, the students were fingerprinted, and they put their thumbprints on a wooden cross. With ashes on their foreheads, students were asked if they were guilty of being a Christian. With an affirmative, “Yes,” they were given a life sentence of trying to follow Jesus.

There are three things we do during Lent to show we are trying to be better Christians: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The students and staff of St. Joseph Community School have done a variety of Lenten sacrifices.

For almsgiving, we brought in “green food or things in green boxes,” like peas, beans, macaroni, etc. on St. Patrick’s Day to help the hungry. Also, part of the ­money we raised in our “penny wars” will go to the food pantry, too.

Our focus on fasting involved giving up recess time to make something for the residents in the nursing homes and other shut-ins who are confined or “imprisoned” in their own homes. Students also fasted from use of technology by unplugging iPads, cell phones, etc. for a day. Students tried to kick a bad habit, like saying hurtful things to others or not allowing someone to be part of a group of friends.

To improve prayer, we will do a living rosary, reflecting on the sorrowful mysteries, and during Holy Week, praying the Stations of the Cross using a shadow screen.

Our penny wars were a great success! For one week, pennies were collected in a jar by each homeroom. The class that collected the most pennies was promised a 30-minute work release from their regular classroom studies. Mrs. Sharon Samec’s class was declared the winning homeroom by having a positive amount of 89 cents!

The catch to the penny wars is that silver coins and/or paper dollars — ones, fives, 10s or even 20s — can be put in the jar, and that type of currency is counted against the pennies! So even though a classroom jar could have quite a few pennies, the other currency would be negative. Why would any class want to be in the negative amount? Well, the classroom with the highest negative amount was told that their teacher (in keeping with our Lenten theme of being “convicted”) would be arrested, handcuffed and taken away in a squad car! Seeing that happen was incentive enough for Mrs. Sharon Denner’s room to collect a total of –$138.14!

Zach Nosbisch, a former graduate of St. Joseph School and now a deputy for the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department, came to arrest Mrs. Denner as the teacher who was the “biggest loser.” The money collected — a grand total of almost $600 — will be divided between our local food pantry and the archdiocese’s prison ministry.

Nosbisch was really smiling as he hand­cuffed Mrs. Denner, who actually was one of his former teachers at St. Joe’s. There are not many students who get to handcuff one of their teachers, are there?

It was a great day for our school and for the food pantry and prison ministry who will benefit from the generosity of so many … all while having a little fun thrown into the Lenten season!

Karen Bonfig is art teacher at St. Joseph School and pastoral associate for Good Shepherd Cluster.


Sharon Denner, a teacher at St. Joseph School in New Hampton, is handcuffed by former student Officer Zach Nosbisch of the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department. (Contributed photos)