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Catholic Connections

By Deanna Pellatt

 

Catholic schools show compassion as love in action

 

01/04/2017

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
— Colossians 3.12

Christ the Teacher Catholic Schools in Melville, Theodore, and Yorkton continue their journey of encouraging stewardship as a way of life. The faith focus for this school year is the virtue of compassion. Thomas Gumbleton claims that compassion is one of Jesus’ most important virtues and that compassion is truly one of the most significant ways of following Jesus.

The school division, together with graphic designer Blair Maki, has once again created a poster (seen here) as a visual reminder to staff and students throughout the year. The poster was designed with the idea of the ripple effect. In the centre we have images of Jesus showing compassion. His words and actions of compassion ripple out to others who want to be like him. Therefore, in the images around the outside of the centre, we see other people showing compassion. These images include Pope Francis, Jean Vanier, Mother Mary, Saint Francis, Bishop Bryan Bayda, and adults and young people like ourselves who have taken to heart the words of Jesus to “go and do likewise,” to be moved with compassion and to do something about the hurts and needs of others.

Just as all the people in the images around the outside of the poster responded to the ripple effect created by Jesus, our lives are meant to have a rippling effect as well. We are now the people among the rings of the ripple beyond the poster. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by sharing our faith, and our gifts and talents so that others can experience the compassion of God through our loving actions. Then, hopefully, the people who experience our compassion will pass it on to others so the rings of the ripple continue and, as they continue, compassion will transform the world!

St. Henry’s Senior School in Melville, under the direction of Principal Steven Boucher, found a way to make the focus on compassion a connective element to student learning while at the same time making the teaching of compassion more relevant to the students and their day-to-day living. The first step was to spend time with the students on the instruction of compassion and what that meant. Using a variety of resources there was a 15 minute instructional lesson for each religion class about what compassion is, a detailed examination of the division’s poster, and understanding the quote inspired by Mother Teresa, “compassion is love in action.”

The second step to this project was for each student to write their own story of compassion. They were to choose either a situation where they were shown compassion or where they showed compassion to someone else. The students were encouraged to not use names in their stories to allow anonymity. This activity has allowed each student to share a little about their own life and how they relate to the understanding of compassion.

While compassion is an easy word to understand on the surface, when we seek a deeper meaning of it, the words inspired by Mother Teresa become even more alive — “Compassion is Love in Action.” The stories are on display throughout the school for the remainder of the year to remind students, staff, and visitors of the many stories of compassion we witness every day.

St. Henry’s Junior School in Melville, under the direction of Principal Joanne Sebastian, has also connected the faith focus on compassion to student learning. The students and staff are creating a book based on and titled after our division theme — The ABCs of Compassion: Love in Action. The following is taken directly from the forward of the book:

“The ABCs of Compassion uses each letter of the alphabet to describe a virtue, characteristic, person or word that strengthens, supports, and guides us to be compassionate. We partnered with an author and publisher in Melville, Saskatchewan, Susan Harris, to make this book a reality. Students were divided into groups led by teachers and brainstormed words related to compassion. Once the words were shortlisted and the final ones chosen, the meanings were developed. Then the students drew illustrations to support the words. We believe this active engagement will embed compassion indelibly in the life of our students.”

Principal Sebastian was adding some finishing touches and preparing to forward their creation to their editor and publisher prior to the Christmas break. We are looking forward to seeing this bilingual book as a finished product!

All of our schools are always involved in a number of projects where staff and students put stewardship virtues into practice. This year’s focus on compassion follows previous years’ focus on the virtues of gratitude, generosity, trust, responsibility, and mercy. Our schools participate in a variety of projects including the Farm Credit Canada Drive Away Hunger Campaign, Me to We, Candle of Hope, and many more.

Most recently our schools were involved in a variety of Advent projects which included weekly prayer celebrations, singing and visiting with senior citizens in our communities, purchasing gifts from Free The Children and Chalice for families and communities in need around the world, and collecting necessary goods and funds to assist various charities and service organizations with their Christmas campaigns for those in need. Engaging in these various projects allows students and staff not only to help those in need, which has been and always will be an important practice in our Catholic schools, but also to foster growth in a virtuous way of life.

Our yearly faith focus, which helps us to become good stewards and disciples of Christ, is a way of increasing awareness that not only is living a virtuous life the moral thing to do, but that we are called to make sure our words and actions reflect our compassionate God who created us in his image and likeness.

God shows compassion through us. We are God’s hands, heart, and voice for the people around us. When we show God’s compassion to others and to the world, we continue the ripple effect inspiring others to show God’s compassion — and on and on it will go transforming the world!

Pray that God will make waves with your faith, even rocking a few boats along the way. Let the ripple effect of your faith and your compassion build up the kingdom of God here and now.

Pellatt is the Religious Education Consultant for Christ the Teacher Catholic Schools in Yorkton.