Willam Weber, teacher Marissa Alcorn and Michael Weber.
Following Pope Francis's call to take the faith out into the workaday world, every grade at Holy Cross School in North Portland has a job to do this year.
Seventh-grade twin brothers, Michael and William Weber, are no strangers to service. They have helped with a homeless shelter organized by their mother. The boys are members of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Scappoose.
But this year, they have experienced something new: meeting residents of the Providence Center for Medically Fragile Children. The Webers have made friends with a boy who cannot walk and cannot speak, but who smiles and shakes his legs in their presence. The boy likes to have his new friends rock his wheelchair gently.
"This has taught us we are so blessed to be healthy kids," says William.
"It made me see how many blessings God has given me," adds Michael. "Great parents, and being able even to walk."
Marissa Alcorn, seventh grade teacher, notes that on the first visit to Providence, seventh graders were shy and uncertain. But on subsequent visits, the friendships began to blossom.
"It's very moving as a teacher to see the growth that happens," Alcorn says. "All the students have moved out of their comfort zones and that is really good."
Meanwhile, Holy Cross eighth graders make regular trips to serve free meals at Blanchet House in Old Town. Sixth graders pick up garbage in the neighborhood around the school once per month.
As for fifth graders, they make trips to the Oregon Food Bank to sort donations. Fourth graders make crafts that are delivered to homebound parishioners and write letters to soldiers in Afghanistan. Third and second graders make sure the playground, which doubles as the church parking lot, is tidy. First graders help stock supplies at a food pantry at the nearby Episcopalian church while kindergartners are regulars at Assumption Village, a retirement community housed on the grounds of a former Catholic parish. There are a handful of projects on which the whole school teams up. There are frequent food drives for the parish's own St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, the busiest in the district. Students also are collecting bedding and supplies for a new family shelter set to open in the St. Johns neighborhood. Then each year, students collect spare change and donate it in a penny war competition to raise money for the Children's Cancer Association. The school also has made supply kits for Medical Teams International to take into disaster zones and sends candy to military people serving abroad.
Eighth graders are required to complete a capstone project — 10 hours of service in the community with a reflective piece of writing and a presentation.