Diocesan schools show stewardship spirit, make giving a priority

CHARLESTON — Most people have the best intentions when it comes to giving, but find that old thief Time robs them of their intentions and pushes charity way to the bottom of the to-do list.

Family, friends, work, running errands, paying bills, cleaning house, all seem to take precedence.

Some of the schools in the Diocese of Charleston are trying to change that mindset.

Christ Our King/Stella Maris in Mount Pleasant and Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville are two schools that have made giving a daily priority for the entire year.

“We Give Wednesday” at Christ Our King/Stella Maris puts outreach in the hands of the students, said Sandy Funk, who works with public relations.    

Each week, one class is assigned the honor of researching different outreach opportunities and voting to decide the winner. Those students promote their choice through posters, visiting other classes, posting information on the Web site, and sending flyers home.

Matthew Story, chair of the school’s Catholic Identity Committee, said students learn about tithing because they are encouraged to earn their own money to put in the offering plate each week. At the end of Mass, all the money collected is donated to that week’s charity.

The class also participates in Mass by taking an active part in the liturgy.

“The key lesson is that this is more than a program. It’s teaching students a way of living,” Story said in a written statement.

“We Give Wednesday” is not a new venture, but Funk said it was revamped this year to give students more ownership over who receives donations.

One child convinced the entire sixth-grade to combine their efforts for St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., because her cousin was undergoing cancer treatment there. They raised over $500.

Mostly the students choose local organizations such as St. John’s Food Bank in North Charleston, St. Vincent de Paul society, East Cooper Community Outreach, the Ronald McDonald House in Charleston and Windwood Farms.  

“We’re teaching students at a very early age about the principles of stewardship and how we give back to God,” Funk said.

Our Lady of the Rosary also focuses on daily giving, although they have taken a different approach.

Anita Sleeman, school spokesperson, said they decided over the summer to be service oriented in honor of the Year of St. Paul.

“We said that everything we were going to do this year was going to be tied to a service project,” Sleeman said.

First they decided to help their local St. Vincent de Paul society as much as possible. Sleeman said the group provides food, clothing, medicine and more to about 35 families every Saturday.

The students’ first challenge was to provide school supplies for those in need. They answered with five cases of academic necessities.

A food shortage in September prompted Our Lady students to designate St. Vincent de Paul as a permanent recipient, and now they run an ongoing collection of pantry items.

This month has a different twist. A pig pen was built in a corner of the gym, and if the students fill it with canned and boxed food, all the teachers have to kiss a pig, Sleeman said.

“It better be a clean pig; that’s all I can say,” she added with a laugh.

Students accumulated pet food for shelters and the Meals on Wheels program to help those recipients feed their pets. They held a baby shower to honor Respect Life Month and pulled in clothes, diapers and other infant needs, plus amassed $600 by collecting change in baby bottles.

One of the most successful campaigns was the Mathathon, which earned $2,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Students also collected eight cases of books during a Red Ribbon Week program called “Get Hooked on Reading;” hosted a pot-luck dinner for Thanksgiving in which parishioners brought a dish plus all the ingredients to make it; and adopted families in need at Christmas.  

“We’ve done really good work,” Sleeman said. “The kids have done a tremendous job. There’s always something going on. And that doesn’t even touch on what our other groups do.”

It also doesn’t include what they have planned for the rest of the year.

Sleeman said they have had so much fun learning to give, not just money but time and talent, that they plan to continue the program next year. She said they may change it a bit by assigning certain charities to each class.

Stewardship is definitely at the top of their list.