February 13-19, 2003
Best Feet Forward
By Howie Mansfield
BINGHAMTON — Students at Seton Catholic Central High School are always looking to do their part in making a difference for their community. On Feb. 4, the entire Seton Catholic Central student body participated in a service project for Catholic Charities, filling shoeboxes with personal care and hygiene products for the Msgr. Owens’ food pantry. The service day occurred during Catholic Schools Week for diocesan high schools from Feb. 1 – 7, moved due to New York State Regents exams last week.
Father Tim Taugher, diocesan director of Social Action Ministry, opened the assembly with remarks on the importance of justice. While he read some statistics about poverty and hunger in New York State, he asked students to stand on one foot.
“It’s one foot of reality. That one foot is charity. What you are doing today is very important. You are to be congratulated,” Father Taugher said. “But we need two feet — one for charity and one for justice. Taking a step with charity helps give direct services to people. That one foot of Christian service is through our volunteer work. But if we stay on one foot, we don’t go anywhere, we stay put. We need to do more.”
Father Taugher said Catholics are called to put both feet forward to “get things done.” He gave examples of how Seton Catholic Central students could impact their community on a deeper level.
“Putting that second foot forward causes social change which leads to political responsibility which leads to social action in on our lives,” said Father Taugher. “As a Catholic community, we have a whole body of doctrine, our Catholic social teaching, which we must follow.”
Father Taugher hoped students would not become complacent and just do these service projects at school. “Don’t stop with what you do today. It’s not over, it’s never over,” he said. “The needs will still be there, until we go beyond. Let’s have some priority for justice.”
Kathy Pfaffenbach, who coordinates the Msgr. Owens’ food pantry for Catholic Charities, wanted to thank the students for their past generosity. “Over a 100 teenagers had a Christmas because of you,” she said. “We told them it was because of the Seton kids and they were really impressed.”
Pfaffenbach explained how many teens have difficulties and for them personal care items are a welcome gift. “It’s a face we see all too often — children under 17 with one or two children of their own, working minimum wage jobs and being a full-time student and a full-time mom,” she said. “Raise your hands if you have taken a shower in the last 24 hours? How many of you have changed your undergarments this week? There are people in this community like you that don’t have that.”
Student council representatives began a collection for personal care items about a month ago and had enough for over 100 boxes. Mary Slifer, English Department chairwoman and student council moderator at Seton Catholic Central, said she was pleased with the efforts of the students.
“We targeted the overlooked teens who don’t have personal care items. Each class collected a different item. Freshmen collected dental products, sophomores collected socks, the juniors gathered undergarments and the seniors collected hygiene products,” Slifer said. “Everyone did a great job pulling it together.”
Grant Madigan, a senior at Seton Catholic Central and student council president, said he was glad to help coordinate the student service day for Catholic Schools Week.
“It’s really great to be able to help your own peers. I never imagined there were so many homeless teens, but these are people right here,” Grant said.
After the assembly, students went back to their homeroom classes to decorate the personal care boxes and put messages inside to make them feel special, Grant said.
Bridget Monastra, a senior and member of the student council, said it’s always important to help with local needs. “I like working on projects for teens our age,” Bridget said. “I would like to do more, but we are all so involved in so many different things. We are trying to do anything we can.”
Bridget said the experience has given her an appreciation for what she has. “If we think we are burdened with our lives, we don’t even know the half of it,” she said. Kathleen Dwyer, principal of Seton Catholic Central High School, said students have created a Stand in the Gap social action group to address concerns of the community and have been proactive in their care for those less fortunate. Dwyer pointed out that both Father Taugher and Pfaffenbach are alumni of Seton Catholic Central and their example shows how the school’s values have had long-lasting impacts.
“Service is a big part of Seton’s tradition,” Dwyer said. “The students here are learning about their society and have really been leaders.”
Pfaffenbach said the students’ work will have a profound impact. “What you are doing is putting your faith in action. You are doing the beatitudes. You are clothing the naked and feeding the hungry,” she said. “Catholic Schools do make a world of difference.”