By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
LOST NATION — After hearing about an impoverished Haitian boy named Juan during a visiting pastor’s homily at Mass, second-grader Parker couldn’t help feeling sad for the boy. During religious education the following week at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish-Lost Nation, he shared Juan’s story with his classmates.
“It had a big impact on him,” said Bev Brauer, the parish’s director of religious education. “We were all so touched; these kids really do listen during church!”
It had a big impact on the other students, too. Parker took his desire to help Juan to the entire religious education student body and together they decided to do something to help.
During Lent this year, the children are encouraging parishioners and each other to fill jars with change. These donations will be given to Food for the Poor, a charity that helps provide food, clean water, medical treatment and more to impoverished persons in the Caribbean and Latin America, like Juan.
Religious education teacher Sue Burmeister said, “I was very impressed that this sermon had an effect on Parker and that he and his classmates are aware that there are families all over the world who do not have what we have.”
The religious education teachers and volunteers have worked into their curriculum opportunities to help students further their understanding of worldwide poverty. This awareness has affected the children in unique ways. Some expressed shock over poor living conditions, while others were more upset by the idea of children not having access to clean water, nourishing food and needed medication.
The religious education students have also gained a sense of gratitude for what they have. Brauer said this is evident at the dinner that accompanies the bi-weekly religious education classes. She’s observed the children talking about how thankful they are to have warm food and safe water. “We have kids in poverty here but nothing compared to the poverty this priest was talking about,” she added.
For Brauer, the response is a testament to the character of the children and the opportunity for the church to help nourish that charitable spirit. “It makes me feel that there is a lot of hope out there for the future of the Catholic Church. It makes me feel proud when things like this happen; it makes all the work of preparing lessons worthwhile. You wonder if they are ‘getting it’ and when they do, it reaffirms you’re on the right track with the kids.”
Much to Parker’s delight, one jar for this Lenten project is already full. “Most people are putting money in the jar,” he said. “Maybe we will fill two jars.”