By Kathryne A. Sparaco
One hundred fifth- and sixth-grade students from three urban Catholic schools were able to make a difference in the lives of over 200 men who reside at the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter.
The students, who attend Syracuse’s Cathedral Academy at Pompei, Most Holy Rosary, and Blessed Sacrament schools, took part in the project “Lighting Another’s Path in Service and Prayer.” This project, created by our diocesan Cabrini Team Health and made possible by a $5,000 grant awarded from The Good News Foundation in Utica, allowed the students to make care packages filled with a variety of supplies and messages of love and support.
Cabrini Team Health, directed by Joan Spector, focuses on improving the mental health, nutrition, fitness, and health and educational outcomes of students and families in the lower- income areas of the diocese. The program also hopes to inspire these students to live their faith with compassion, integrity and respect for all life.
Although Cabrini Team Health hopes to reach all 21 diocesan Catholic schools, its focus is on schools located in poverty-stricken areas. With a combined 43% of students at these three schools qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, Spector knew these schools would be a good fit for this project. “It was a great opportunity for these three schools to serve and give back,” she said. “It’s always important to be able to look outside of yourself, and I think it shows that we are true to our mission of evangelizing and helping others.” The project demonstrated for the students what the core of evangelization is—sharing the Good News of Jesus and helping others to encounter Christ.
The Good News Foundation awards grants to nonprofits with similar missions. The grants are intended to help these nonprofits bring ideas and new initiatives to fruition. Director of Cabrini Grant Programs Amy Bodow said this project was particularly special to execute because it not only helped the students, but it also helped the community as a whole. “I think sometimes homeless people feel like they’re forgotten about,” Bodow said. “I hope this helps them feel seen by the community and helps them know that there are people out there who care about them and want them to be healthy.”
The care packages, assembled in backpacks, contained socks, an emergency rain poncho, shampoo, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a washcloth. Each backpack also contained a Bible verse and a handwritten uplifting message from each student. Spector said delivering the packages was a very rewarding experience. “They were beyond grateful,” she shared. “I hope the men know how much Jesus loves them.”
”We are overjoyed with the actions of our students,” said diocesan Superintendent of Schools William Crist. “Providing ‘care kits’ to the men who are served by the Men’s Shelter for Catholic Charities in Syracuse is a wonderful reminder and lesson for our students to serve those in need and live the Gospel through their actions.”
Kathryne A. Sparaco is the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Vicar General, Chancellor/Director of Communications, Vicar of Religious and Synodal Planning, and Direct