Mercy Gets Its Hands Dirty

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Dear Friends,

This year has brought with it a number of new, unexpected joys. Many of these have come in my new role as Director of Service. This job has given me a privileged vantage point from which I have been able to experience firsthand the generosity of our students and school community. Our young women and men have stepped up to go above and beyond expectations on practically every service initiative we have undertaken.

Take, for instance, the annual “home makeover” that our school undertakes for the Brian Muha Foundation’s Run the Race Center. As many who are familiar with the school know, the Run the Race Center was founded to provide a loving, faith-centered extracurricular environment for youth living in the Hilltop neighborhood on the west side of Columbus. Each year, Run the Race selects one family receiving services from the Center to receive a home makeover, which our Run the Race support club and family and consumer science classes sponsor.

Each year’s makeover has its own challenges. This year, the challenge came in the form of a short schedule. Due to our calendar this year, we only had a few weeks to put everything together. Nonetheless, our classes and club came through tremendously and were able to pull of a great makeover.

During the event, I worked in the bathroom with seniors Tim Anderson and Ian McCandlish. There was a lot of work to be done. We needed to completely repaint the room with a couple of coats of paint and lay down some sheet vinyl flooring. I was struck by how much Tim and Ian had it together. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing and worked with a great sense of diligence and focus.

Not only that, but these young men were not afraid of a little dirt. The house was sort of rundown in the first place (thus the need for the makeover), but the toilet was in particularly bad shape. Part of the work included taking off the tank so that the area around and behind it could be properly cleaned and painted. It wasn’t pretty, but Tim and Ian jumped right in and got the job done.

In the words of Pope Francis, “Mercy gets its hands dirty.” I am blessed to have the opportunity to see so many of our students commit to lives of service, even when it is not the most convenient or comfortable. They understand that convenience and comfort do not bring lasting joy. It is in giving of themselves, even in the midst of staggering schedules and courseloads, that our students find a more durable kind of happiness. I think we can all learn a lesson or two from them.


In Christ,
Jack

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Service Spotlight - Anne Ryan '19

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Join us for a dodgeball tournament to benefit pediatric cancer on Feb 18th (President’s Day-no school)! It will be held in the St. Francis DeSales Gymnasium beginning with check in starting at 11. All proceeds benefit the Oncology department of Nationwide Children’s Hospital! Teams consist of 10 players (mix of schools and grade levels), the cost is $50 dollars per team ($5 per person). Food will be provided.

Get a team together to help us in the fight against childhood cancer!

Want to support the event but don’t want to play? Come watch for $5 -- no registration required.

Snow Days and Empty Bowls

There is a running joke that most teachers like snow days more than their students. Sure, we might fall a little behind schedule in our classes, but there is certainly something to be said for acknowledging that we cannot control everything. As hard as we might try, there is always uncertainty to deal with, and when that uncertainty comes in the form of a day off due to weather, I for one will not be found complaining. I love the chance to slow down and enjoy a somewhat unexpected break. Sure, snow days might cause a bit of an inconvenience, but this inconvenience is easily offset by the fact that I don’t have to go into work.

Students making ceramic bowls for the Empty Bowl Event

Students making ceramic bowls for the Empty Bowl Event

That said, I felt some mixed emotions last week as we enjoyed our snow days in the second half of the week. The reason for this was that on Friday, we were scheduled to host an event called Empty Bowls which was to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. The idea behind the event is compelling; we fill our own “empty bowls” to fill those of those in need throughout central Ohio. Members of the school community donate homemade soup, which guests can try for a donation. After they’ve had their fill of soup, our guests get to take home a commemorative bowl handmade by a student or faculty member. The event was scheduled during our evening boys basketball games against our league opponents at Bishop Hartley High School, which meant we would have a big crowd in the school. This is everything I like in a charity event. It’s hands-on, involves the whole community, and brings two great schools together to support an important cause. However, it was my first time doing the event, which was returning after a hiatus of nearly a decade. Like any other project I’ve worked on, I wanted to do it well, but on top of that, this was new territory for me in my role as director of service. I had never coordinated something with this many moving parts, and I had more than a little nervousness about the impact adverse weather might have on my ability to keep things moving according to plan. More importantly, I didn’t know how the weather might affect the success of the event itself.

We certainly did see some adverse weather in the latter half of that week. We were out of school  for the two days prior to and the day of the event due to extreme cold and snow. For I think the first time in my life, I found myself feeling frustrated by the inconvenience of a snow day. I don’t mind missing a day of work here or there, but I did not want to see this event negatively affected by it. In this case, my easy resignation to a lack of control over the weather gave way to a feeling of helplessness. I was particularly worried about asking my colleagues to come in to donate soup and volunteer, because I knew it required me to ask them to sacrifice some of their time and energy on a day they were supposed to have off. Although I reassured myself this would not be an issue, my imagination jumped to all sorts of outlandish scenarios.

Of course, any worries I may have had were laughable. My coworkers are in a field of work that is service-oriented, particularly since we work at a Catholic school. Many of us have sacrificed higher-paying, less intensive careers or positions to be here because we want to serve. I mention this not to complain or make ourselves out to be martyrs, but rather to praise the generosity with which my colleagues live their lives. For them, service is not a one-time decision but rather a fundamental orientation. This sort of mindset makes acts of service easy, even when it’s not perfectly convenient. Service for them is second nature. I think it’s safe to say that this service mindset is contagious. I see it rub off on our students and families all the time. I cannot think of a single time in my short time as director of service that I have been short on volunteers. On the contrary, we are bursting at the seams any time we need help with something. As far as the event goes, it was abundantly successful. We had more than enough soup and volunteers, and were able to raise a generous contribution to the work of Mid-Ohio Foodbank. I would have a hard time overstating my heartfelt gratitude to all who contributed. The weather may have been dicey, but it was no hindrance to the generosity of friends.

In Christ,

Jack

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On Advent and the Canned Food Drive

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Advent is a beautiful, but in some ways, challenging time of year. It is, for one thing, an opportunity for us to come to grips with the reality of our utter reliance on God and, moreover, our desire for Him. In this time we recall the history of the Israelites, who desperately waited for the promised Messiah. We too, as the People of God, wait in joyful expectation for Christ’s triumphant return and final victory; that final consummation of the New Covenant.

While this desire for God is felt in the depths of every human heart, it is not merely a spiritual reality. Rather, it is a reality that manifests itself in the world around us. When we consider the enormous issues facing our world, we echo the Psalmist, crying out “How long, O Lord?” The problems of poverty,  spiritual indifference, violence, and discrimination continue to plague us and even increase, as we become more and more aware of our own inadequacy in addressing the root causes of these challenges. Try though might, we simply cannot find that perfect recipe to bring an end to social strife, and so we turn to Lord, in a state of total humility, weariness, and even embarrassment.  It is in this place and time that we learn the meaning of trust. Once we come to recognize our own frailty, we have the opportunity to place our trust in Someone decidedly more dependable.

It is in this place of recognition of our own inadequacy that we learn to identify with the downtrodden and isolated. It is here that we learn to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” that we might be satisfied. It is here, from this position of humility, that we come to the heart of generosity. We come to recognize that any good we may enjoy is a gift from God, and in that spirit of gratitude and humility we learn to give of ourselves.  The God of the universe has abundantly blessed us so that we in turn might bless others.

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In no small way, I saw this play out in our canned food drive. The young men and women of our school came together in a beautiful show of generosity to support those in need. For many of them, this went beyond just asking their parents for money or raiding the kitchen pantry. Many students, themselves not wealthy, went out to their families and communities, begging on behalf of those in need. One thing that struck me most was the smiles on the faces of the young men and women as they turned in their goods. It reflected an authentic joy that comes from living out the faith.

All in all, the food drive was overwhelmingly successful. At the final tally, we had exceeded our goal by over 40%. I could not be more proud of the effort, energy, and focus of our students, staff, and community on this project. Our work on this drive showed me the value of teamwork, generosity, and trust in God. Moreover, it was a beautiful opportunity for our school family to herald the coming of His Kingdom.

In Christ,

Jack

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More Than a Requirement

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As we have settled into the steady hum of another busy school year, I hope that the many responsibilities it brings are a source of joy rather than consternation. It is easy at times to reduce our days to the tasks we need to complete, with little regard for the purpose of the tasks. I am often reminded of this when I am asked a complicated or controversial question in class. Big questions like these can force me to fall behind or change my lesson plan, but I would be hard-pressed to find a better place to discuss them.

The same can be said of service. It is easy at times to reduce service to a mere requirement, whether that be given extrinsically (“I need x number of hours to fulfill my requirement for National Honor Society, a disciplinary measure I earned, etc.”) or intrinsically (“I need x number of hours so that I feel like a good person”). In either case, it is easy to miss the real reason we serve. It is not about hours, but rather about the people we meet, the ways we lend a hand, and the many experiential lessons in discipleship that we receive. This, by the way, is part of the reason that Saint Francis DeSales High School does not have a general requirement for service hours. All students are expected to participate in and reflect upon their service experiences through initiatives like Urban Plunge, our various charitable drives, and senior year’s Journey Project, but there is no mandated number of hours to be catalogued.

I saw this philosophy demonstrated wonderfully at our recent service fair. As it was our first time doing something of this nature, I experienced some trepidation as the day approached. I was worried that not many students would want to take the time during their busy days to stop by the fair. Thankfully, these worries proved to be without merit. Hundreds of our students kept the gymnasium packed during their lunch periods as they explored opportunities for service in our school and wider community. I am happy to say the fair was a great success, not just because of the great organizations we had visiting, but most importantly because of the outstanding level of student engagement.

Another exciting opportunity to serve has been extended to students and parents alike within our community through LifeCare Alliance, one of the participants in the fair. Among other things, LifeCare Alliance is responsible for the extensive Meals on Wheels services offered in Franklin County. This organization has extended an invitation to our community to partner with them by adopting a route near our school. In order to make this a reality, we need involvement from parents who would be willing to drive the route. The number of times a parent would drive the route would depend on the level of interest we have, but any help is deeply appreciated. Please reach out to me if you are interested!

Finally, I ask for your prayers for the success of our annual canned food drive, which will run from November 12-30. More information will certainly be coming home from our students, but such an important initiative cannot be successful without the prayerful support of our wonderful community. My prayer for you today is that you find joy in the tasks our Lord has given you today. May you come to see them as blessings rather than burdens, and may you never lose sight of the true goal of your work.

In Christ,

Jack

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Service Spotlight - Victoria Nguyen '19

Service Spotlight - Victoria Nguyen '19

Friends of the Poor Walk sponsored by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul

When: September 29 at 9am

Where: SFD Alumni Stadium

Click here to register for the event. If you cannot join us for the walk, but would like to make a donation, please send it to the main office, ATTN: SVDP - Friends of the Poor Walk. 


An Introduction - Why We Serve

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Friends, 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jack Welsh, and I am the Director of Service at St. Francis DeSales High School. I am excited to have been offered the chance to take on this newly-created role as I continue my work as a member of the faculty in the Theology Department. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about how my role will fit into the bigger picture of who we are as a school.

In a recent conversation with Father Stash Dailey, an alumnus of SFD and a priest for the Diocese of Columbus, I gained a new appreciation of the impact that service has had on our school community. It is not an exaggeration to say that this school was built upon a foundation of service. Fr. Dailey related to me stories he had heard from older priests in the diocese, who would, as seminarians, come to the grounds of our future school after a long day of studies to clear rocks so that the bulldozers could operate. He spoke of the Franciscan Sisters of Stella Niagara, who would live in and teach at the school for many years, helping to lay bricks. This is not to mention the countless hours and dollars invested by the laity of the school community in order to get our building up and functioning.

Why was the process of building Saint Francis DeSales High School so community-driven? On a basic level, one can appreciate the fact that those who laid the foundation were hardly flush with cash. In this sense, the building of the school was a great demonstration of the faith of our community that the Lord would provide for our material needs. Digging a little deeper, I think this story also shows how truly foundational service is to our school school. It is a part of who we are.

As the Director of Service, my goal is to connect students at Saint Francis DeSales High School with opportunities to serve. Hopefully, in doing this, we can capture the spirit of service that lives deep within these walls. One way we will do this is by offering a service fair for our students on October 9th- keep an eye out for details! In addition, I will be working in conjunction with our faculty and staff to highlight the excellent work our students already do, by doing short video profiles to share with the wider community.

I invite you to check out our recently-updated service page on the school website, where you will find information about our program, service-related news, a calendar featuring service opportunities, and a link to descriptions of our service clubs.

If you are interested in learning more about service at Saint Francis DeSales High School, or are interested in partnering with us in giving students opportunities to serve, feel free to email me at welsh@desales.co. Please pray for us as we begin the academic year with this exciting endeavor!

In Christ,

Jack

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