By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
MUSCATINE — As a way to celebrate the Year of Mercy, Heidi Scholz’s fifth-grade class at Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School in Muscatine has been performing corporal works of mercy.
The students’ goal for the projects has been to transform the lives of others through merciful works. But the students have found their own lives transformed in the process.
“It makes me not want to ask for more than I need,” said fifth-grader Emily Elizalde after delivering blankets to a homeless shelter and seeing people living on very little. “I don’t need name-brand clothes,” she determined.
Fellow fifth-grader Makenna Kopf’s eyes were opened when she helped deliver food to a local food pantry. “So often we assume that people in need are bad people,” she said. But she realized that people who visit food pantries are “just people who need to eat.” They deserve forgiveness, not judgment.
Scholz said the fifth-graders’ adventure began a few months ago after receiving a lesson about the corporal works of mercy. “We decided as a class to take on the challenge of completing each one this year.”
So far, the class has spent time talking to residents in an assisted living facility (visiting the sick), making a card for the school’s custodian after his mother died (burying the dead), collecting coats for the homeless (clothing the naked) and raising money for Catholic Charities’ efforts in Flint, Mich. (giving drink to the thirsty, giving alms to the poor), in addition to the food drive for the local food pantry (feeding the hungry) and making blankets for the homeless (sheltering the homeless).
Younger students at Ss. Mary and Mathias helped out with several of the projects. Before the school year is out, the fifth-graders plan to write encouraging letters to people in prison (visiting the prisoners).
In addition to gaining new perspectives through the projects, students said they enjoyed helping others. Fifth-grader Roberto Solis liked making blankets for people in the homeless shelter. “It was really fun,” he said.