By Tanya Connor
SHREWSBURY – St. Mary Elementary School is sending out an SOS for the Year of Mercy.
SOS stands for “Service Over Self,” the name of a new service club, established for the jubilee year but intended to continue on.
The club’s logo has the word “Service” with a line under it, over the word “Self,” reminiscent of the way some math problems are written and spoken about.
“That yellow line’s supposed to be a path,” Rilie Saba, who designed the logo, said of another part of it.
“A path to love,” added Aliya Larkin, another service club member.
Rilie said the heart was to be like an “X,” for “X marks the spot” where you start.
This logo was among symbols carried to the altar Jan. 30 at a Catholic Schools Week Mass at St. Mary Church. For this Year of Mercy, offertory procession symbols represented corporal and spiritual works of mercy the school community performs.
A food basket represented monthly donations to St. Anne’s Food Pantry, coats symbolized a yearly outerwear drive, gift boxes recalled Christmas presents for refugees, cards demonstrated outreach to Notre Dame Long Term Care Center residents, a Bible stood for prayers for the living and the dead. Altar servers were a reminder that students serve at funeral Masses on school days. There were also representations of the school’s sponsorship of two students in Uganda and a Lenten collection for students in Haiti.
In his homily Father Juan D. Escudero, associate pastor, talked about how the Catholic Schools Week theme, “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” also applies to Christianity as a whole. Christians serve others because everyone is loved by God, he said.
The school service club was started last November for the Year of Mercy, Stephanie Muzzy, advancement director, told The Catholic Free Press.
“It will live on,” she said. “We like the students to take the leadership.” They take turns offering a prayer about mercy to begin each meeting.
Father Escudero gave them an overview of the works of mercy, and they plan to talk about each one and how “we can live them in our lives, in addition to doing service projects,” she said.
She and some of the club’s members in grades 7 and 8 told The Catholic Free Press about service projects they’ve done or hope to do.
“I’m so lucky to go to this school,” said Axel Johnson. “It’s nice to give back to the community. We’re making cards for veterans.”
Mrs. Muzzy said they partnered with the service club at St. Bernadette Elementary School in Northborough for this project.
Olivia Zerwas said she thought it was good to make cards for veterans “because they have to serve our country – I think it’s a great thing to do to show our appreciation for what they do for us.”
Aliya Larkin expressed hope that they will move up to bigger projects, maybe some outside of the school.
Mrs. Muzzy said they will introduce the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) of Greater Worcester to the school and expand the parish’s work with it.
The network “is an organization that unites the religious community in an effort to serve and nurture homeless families,” its website, ihnworcester.org, says. It is located at 91 June St. in Worcester.
Feb. 4 students designed boxes to put in the church to collect toiletries for shelter guests. Later, service club members are to deliver the items and meet the homeless families.
Meg Sullivan said she already went to the shelter; she and her mother and sister took the leftover pasta from the dinner that followed the opening Mass.
“It was a little bit different than I expected,” she said. “It was everyday people. I thought it’d be more like the people you see in the cities” who are homeless.
Mrs. Muzzy said a parishioner who volunteers at IHN showed the service club a video about the shelter.
“I think it’s a great experience that we get to go to IHN and meet the people … and just make their day a little bit better,” said Olivia.
“I think it’s good that us ordinary people are doing such simple actions, such as buying a roll of toilet paper,” said Padraig Vona. “These people can’t do that. It brings them such joy and happiness that they can have these items.”
“After the Paris attack … we made these Paris cards and we sent them to a Catholic school,” Olivia said of their outreach in the wake of the recent massacre.
Mrs. Muzzy said they thought it would be a personal touch to write in French. Math teacher Chantal Kassa wrote prayers and key sayings the students could copy. They sent the cards to Marymount International School and a fourth-grader teacher wrote back that she had given them to her students.
Rilie wanted to share something she said was not a project of the service club. Because her neighbor survived breast cancer, each year she donates money and her family participates in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk she said. She said she hoped the service club can do something for sick people.
That gave the others ideas; Mrs. Muzzy and some of the students talked about joining that walk or doing their own walk.