“Saying we are ‘People for Others’ means we work together to help others. Service helps students find God not only in themselves but in others and their work,” said Deb Witmer, Student Council moderator.
As students complete their Christian Service hours, they are encouraged to participate in service throughout the school, and that includes opportunities offered through Student Council, Campus Ministry and Respect Life club. Service projects build school spirit and unity among students, allowing them to come together for the greater good. Suzi Arnett ‘86, Student Council moderator, commented, “The mission of JCA is to challenge students and our community to grow in knowledge, faith, understanding and service. Some projects are outside of school and some are inside to give everyone an opportunity to get involved.”
Student Council facilitates projects throughout the year. Over the last 16 years, the Junior Student Council has collected winter items and toys in conjunction with the Christmas Dance for Guardian Angel Home. “Adopt-a-Family,” led by Senior Student Council for the last nine years, provides Christmas presents for approximately 35 children in need each year. Additionally, senior Student Council members spend two weeks making blankets during their lunch periods for Ronald McDonald House. “Stick it to Autism” raises money for Esperanza School in Chicago, a school for severe and profoundly autistic children. The money is used to purchase Velcro products for their residents. Through the sophomore class service project “Jeans for Teens,” jeans are collected and donated to DoSomething.org, for the local homeless youth.
While many of the school-wide service projects Student Council sponsors have a long standing tradition, sometimes, a need arises within the community and students are compelled to help right away. “Our students are very giving,” said Sr. Barb Kwiatkowski, OSF, campus minister. “If there is a need, we have more than enough people who want to help out.” When a JCA student was hospitalized, students raised money to help with mounting medical bills. The “Go Pink” fundraiser was established for a JCA teacher diagnosed with breast cancer. The faculty and staff also pitched in by preparing meals for the teacher’s family.
The Campus Ministry program strengthens the spiritual welfare of the community through prayer, retreats and liturgies, which leads students to service opportunities. “An important idea that comes out of our senior Kairos retreat is, ‘Don’t say you love me, show that you love me.’ One way JCA puts this idea into action is through the annual summer mission trip,” said Fr. Jeff Smialek, O. Carm., JCA campus minister. For the fourth consecutive year, 14 JCA students, and their chaperones, will join 13,000 teenagers from across the country at one of 50 Catholic HEART Workcamp cities. “The trip is certainly an experience of making sacrifices. The sleeping accommodations consist of a sleeping bag on the floor of a classroom in the parish center and communal bathrooms down the hall. The lack of daily conveniences helps everyone better relate to what the poor and homeless might be going through every day.” During the day, students are split into work groups based on the project that interests them, such as visiting the elderly at a retirement home, working at a daycare center or soup kitchen, or cleaning up a neighborhood. The evening program provides time for relaxation and reflection on the day. “The mission trip provides a profound experience for students that broadens their understanding of faith in action.”
Campus Ministry also facilitates Senior Service Day, while the underclass students are experiencing their class retreat. Since its inception, the seniors have worked at Habitat for Humanity, Morningstar Mission, Ready Set Ride, The Timbers, and Feed my Starving Children in Aurora. “The day gives seniors and their teachers an opportunity to work side by side, serving the Joliet community,” said Sr. Barb.
The Respect Life club raises awareness from a Catholic standpoint of the sacredness of all life, from the moment of conception to the time of natural death. Every January the club travels to Washington, D.C. for the annual “March for Life,” the largest pro-life event in the world, to rally and pray for an end to abortion. Following her experience this year, Zoe Fischer ’16 wrote, “More than anything else, marching for life has emphasized to me the importance of having a reputation as a peaceful, compassionate advocate, concerned with preserving the most precious aspects of life for everyone. While I thought I had prepared a lot to go on the march, I realize now that the trip was really meant to prepare me for my mission: to spread love and an appreciation for life in my community.”
Sr. Barb added, “Giving of ourselves for others is part of the Catholic faith. Our students are always looking for opportunities to help those who are less fortunate. I think that says a lot about the men and women our students go on to become.”