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Year of Mercy: teaching Christ’s love through actions

School doing all the corporal works of mercy in a year

By Donna Adelmund, Cherilyn Eveleth, Monica Kruse & Megan Kuhlers
Special to The Witness

MARSHALLTOWN — St. Francis Catholic School in Marshalltown strives to teach students all the things a student needs to know to succeed in education. We also aim to teach about living life in service of others and the world we live in.

St. Francis established a Service Project Committee made up of four teachers in response to the pope’s declaration that this be the Year of Mercy. Principal Matthew Herrick directed the committee to plan and coordinate projects involving students in leading and serving as Christ did. The committee went through several brainstorming sessions and came up with at least one project for each act of mercy.

Feed the Hungry & Give Drink to the Thirsty

The students brought donations in to complete boxes to go out to families in need during Thanksgiving time. Each class/age group was designated as being responsible for bringing a different item to go in the box to be donated. During the Christmas season the teachers wanted to be role models and brought in items to donate to the local food pantry. Finally, the third and fourth grade students partnered with Hy-Vee OneStep program to create a community garden.

Shelter the Homeless

The fifth grade partnered with the local Hy-Vee grocery store for House of Compassion, which is a local outreach where individuals can get clothing, food, shelter, etc. if in need.

Visit the Sick

The students gathered loose change for Birthright, a local organization in Marshalltown that helps expectant families and provides assistance for new mothers and their infants. We gathered all the loose change into a wading pool. A total of $395.48 was donated.

All students took part in creating either Christmas posters or cards for local nursing homes residents.

St. Francis also partnered with REM Iowa, which provides services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students put on an Easter egg hunt for the individuals using their service as a way to reach out as Christ did to others. Older students helped hide eggs before their arrival and then were also able to help and encourage the REM Iowa individuals in finding the eggs.

St. Francis also reached out to Central Iowa Residential Services, Inc. (CIRSI) in which they came to a game day with our fourth-graders. They played board and card games together.

Students in the third and fourth grades visited the Iowa Vet­eran’s Home staff and residents in Mar­shalltown and put on a concert singing patriotic and traditional American songs.

In November, students in the third through sixth grades held a mock caucus. Students decided that rather than voting for a person they would each come up with a service project idea to promote and caucus for. The idea for a school talent show was voted the winner during the caucus. The talent show had a 25 cent entry fee for those wanting to perform, along with taking a goodwill donation the day of the performance from anyone in attendance. The students designated that all $250 in proceeds go to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.

Visit the Imprisoned

St. Francis has scheduled a book drive for the fall to donate gently used books to the local county jail.

Clothe the Naked

St. Francis partnered with two organizations for this act of mercy. Students collected cotton T-shirts for an organization called Diapers for Haiti through a local church that participates. This organization takes the T-shirts, cuts them apart using a pattern and assembles them into cloth diapers that can then be sent to Haiti to help children stay clean, healthy and happier. The other organization was Soles4Souls, which collects shoes of any size, shape and condition to be sorted and sent to those in need of footwear all over the world.

Bury the Dead

The Service Project Committee contacted Riverview Cemetery in Marshalltown about the possibility of cleaning headstones as a way to honor and respect those who are no longer with us. The committee received an enthusiastic response and had students in third through sixth grades take part in a headstone cleaning class. The class taught students the proper way to care for and clean a headstone to make sure the headstone would last longer and keep from deteriorating. St. Francis went to the cemetery in three separate groups; younger students partnered with older students to care for and clean headstones.

Adelmund, Eveleth, Kruse and Kuhlers serve on the St. Francis Catholic School, Marshalltown, Service Project Committee

Photo: Recently fifth-graders and first-graders from St. Francis Catholic School in Marshalltown cleaned headstones at Riverside Cemetery. This project fulfilled the work of mercy of burying the dead. (Photo by Sara Jordan-Heintz /The Times-Republican of Marshalltown)