By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Bishop Dwenger High School is one of only 16 high schools in the U.S. to partner with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as a Global Neighbor School.
Through the iNeighbor initiative, “Catholic youth, parents, school administrators and faculty learn about the work of CRS around the world and co-create ways to actively live out Jesus’ love,” reported the website, http://ineighbor.crs.org. Catholic Relief Services carries out the commitment of the U.S. bishops to assist the poor outside the U.S.
“CRS iNeighbor connects us with our global family,” the website stated. “By identifying with the needs and gifts of our global neighbor, we learn about ourselves.”
Last week, the Bishop Dwenger community focused on and encouraged a spirit of global solidarity among students, teachers, administrators and staff that culminated in a school prayer assembly on Friday, April 19.
At the assembly, Principal Jason Schiffli told the students that the program will hopefully be a springboard. The students will learn about the work of CRS and follow their services throughout their lives. And other schools will want to partner with the CRS iNeighbor initiative.
“We are here to serve,” noted Schiffli at the assembly, which Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades attended and offered a blessing.
During the week, “every class researched one assigned country where Catholic Relief Services works,” said Melissa Wheeler, Bishop Dwenger theology teacher who is also the diocesan director of Catholic Relief Services. The students “found statistics about the country — population, poverty rate, these kinds of things” — and the CRS programs in place.
The students designed posters with the information they learned. These posters are hanging on the classroom doors throughout the school and will be there through the end of the year.
Students also created flags representing 55 of the 100 countries where CRS has a presence. During the prayer assembly, Father Jacob Meyer, chaplain, sang a litany of saints that pertained to the patrons of the countries represented. One student carried the flag before the student body, while another student lit a candle. The flags were then placed in the cafeteria and will eventually be placed in the school.
At the assembly, the work of CRS was highlighted. Providing wells and sanitary water was emphasized as one of the services CRS provides. Building homes, providing medical supplies are other services provided by CRS.
Bishop Dwenger’s emphasis over the next three years is to concentrate on orphans and vulnerable children.
The CRS iNeighbor initiative is just in its second year, and Bishop Dwenger is one of the first high schools in the nation to partner with CRS.
At the Catholic Social Ministries gathering in Washington, D.C. — a gathering of all social ministry groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul and others — Bishop Dwenger was approached by CRS because of other CRS-related programs at Bishop Dwenger, such as the Fair Trade Sales, Food Fair CRS and Operation Rice Bowl.
“Next year, we’ll have another workshop with Catholic Relief Services with faculty and staff, and build throughout the year and implement more of the orphans and vulnerable children into culminating a week like this one,” Wheeler said, “but we want to get more students involved in these (eight) committees and get their input in the lesson planning, displays and school-wide action.”
Charles Ehinger, who teaches senior honors physics and coordinated the committee that planned the prayer assembly, said the ideas come from the students whose actions can range from raising funds or writing to elected representatives on issues to raising funds for a group to do mission work in another country.
“It becomes their project that the (teachers) help,” Wheeler added. “They become the primary engineers.”
One Bishop Dwenger senior, Jacob Malmstrom, spent 2011 in Haiti with his parents and the family working in medical missions. In his brief presentation at the assembly of the mission work he did in Haiti, he showed the need for medical care, housing and the plight of orphans and children left at the Mission of Hope Orphanage. Some of the children are placed there, he said, because the family can no longer financially support them.
He encouraged his fellow students to “feel blessed with what you have been given.”
Malmstrom plans to return to Haiti this summer with an internship program soon after he graduates in May.
Ehinger’s honors physics class studied Ethiopia. He explained that the class spent the first day learning the statistics and general information about the country — terrain, capitol, population, the climate and its droughts. CRS provides facts about all the countries they serve on their website.
Ehinger said he was able to incorporate lessons of the class with the situation, for example, of the drought issues in Ethiopia: “How can we solve this?” he asked the students.
Wheeler said, next year, perhaps the biology and chemistry teachers will participate in the iNeighbor program and the classes will partner with CRS who offer videoconferences to show how they work. Different lessons will be available in world languages, theology or social studies classes.
The second day, the students concentrated on the country’s history. That included the history of CRS’s work in that particular country.
The third day included studies for groups that partner with CRS and the fourth day served as CRS programs to explore and the type of relief that is going on in each country.
The idea is “global awareness,” Ehinger said. “As much as teenagers are sheltered, they don’t travel far, they’re not aware of what goes on in the world. So it’s more real to them and if it’s real to them they will want to get more involved.”
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