By Melissa Wheeler
During Catholic Schools Week, time is taken to remember the lessons taught by Christ the Teacher. His teaching was based in faith and compassion. Today, schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend aim for these same ideals: They teach the faith and form compassionate young people who will live the Gospel. Catholic Relief Services partners with diocesan high schools to enhance this mission.
A familiar acronym at Catholic Relief Services is PLAG. In its mission of global solidarity, CRS is called to pray, learn, act and give in solidarity with the global poor. Most of the time, individuals think of giving first. They think of how much they have and how much the poor lack, and reach into their pockets to give what they can. While monetary support is very important to any mission that helps the poor, praying for the people in the situation, learning about their lives and acting to help change their situations, is vital. It is only in entering into their lives, even in a simple way, that others are able to come into solidarity with them. Their dignity and worth are recognized when others see how alike all people really are, and that we are all members of one human family.
The United States Operations side of CRS takes the message of global solidarity to the Catholic Church in the U.S. in various ways. The most familiar is CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten enrichment experience for individuals and families. There are currently 85 parishes, schools and university offices across the diocese that will participate in CRS Rice Bowl for Lent this year. CRS Rice Bowl helps family, parish and school communities connect with their brothers and sisters all over the world through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Did you know that CRS also has a program specifically for high schools?
All four diocesan high schools — Bishop Dwenger, Bishop Luers, Marian and Saint Joseph — are participating in the CRS Global High School Program. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend was the first diocese in the U.S. to have all of its high schools engaged in GHS.
According to CRS, a global high school “works collaboratively with Catholic Relief Services to form internationally aware and globally responsive students who live their Catholic faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world.” What does this partnership mean for our high schools? It means ready access to CRS resources that help educate the school community in Catholic social teaching. Teachers can participate in the GHS forums that allow them to share lesson plan ideas with one another between schools, and because there are global high schools throughout the United States. Catholic identity is enhanced within the participant schools. Faith comes alive in the schools as students, faculty and staff advocate for global solidarity. The schools can also celebrate and enhance their individual charisms through the incorporation of Catholic social teaching through the CRS Global High School program.
All Global High Schools participate in CRS Rice Bowl and at least one more core program such as Foodfast, Ethical Trade, Advocacy or Global Emergency Response. CRS Foodfast is a hunger-awareness experience in which, through fasting, prayer, art and other activities, students enter into an experience of hunger to be in solidarity with their hungry brothers and sisters around the world and discover how they might become involved in eliminating hunger. Through CRS Ethical Trade, formerly CRS Fair Trade, school communities can host fair-trade sales and pray for and learn about the artisans and growers who have produced the products in the sale.
For high schools that want to engage in advocacy regarding global issues, CRS provides an advocacy toolkit that allows the school community to examine the legislative process and engage in advocacy for global concerns shaped by CRS through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Participants can write letters, make phone calls and make visits to members of Congress to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. And when global emergencies occur, school communities can pray, learn, act and give to help those in need. CRS
provides schools with prayer intercessions for mass, classroom prayers specific to the emergency and prayer services, among other resources, that will allow the school to come into relationship with those who are suffering.
High schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend have this opportunity for mutual support with Catholic Relief Services due to the strong leadership of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, a member of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services. Bishop’s commitment to Catholic social teaching and global solidarity has served as an example for all four school communities. He has traveled twice with CRS to see its programming for the global poor.
Teachers at Global High Schools also have the opportunity to travel with CRS. Most recently, Laura LaMaster, a teacher at Bishop Dwenger in Fort Wayne, traveled with CRS to Uganda and is now able to share that experience with the whole of the Bishop Dwenger community.
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