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March 3 - March 16, 2013

Students from Jesuit high schools use day off for service

Kate Lorenz, a student at St. Ignatius College Prep, high fives Misericordia resident Jill H. as they visit during lunch. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

Katie Loftus, a student at St. Ignatius College Prep, looks over a letter as she visits with Misericordia resident Marsha A. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

Cate Lenti, students at St. Ignatius College Prep, works in the bakery cutting brownies with Misericordia resident Mary H. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

Mabely Dominguez and Daniela Reyes, students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, look over a yearbook with Misericordia resident Tyler S. as they visit during lunch. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

rancisco Cano, from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, laughs along with Misericordia resident Jonathon H. as they visit during lunch. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

Cate Lenti, Kate Lorenz, and Katie Loftus, students at St. Ignatius College Prep, work in the bakery cutting brownies with Misericordia resident Mary H. Karen Callaway/Catholic New World

By Michelle Martin


It was an unseasonably warm Presidents Day this year, the kind of day that promises spring will come, even if a winter has a few more spasms of snow and ice up its sleeve.

And for high school students, it was the kind of day that’s perfect for sleeping in: no school; no sports commitments; mom and dad probably off to work, so no one to nag them to get out of bed before noon.

So what motivated more than 150 students from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s four Jesuit high schools to make their way to St. Ignatius High School for an early morning Mass, before being sent out to serve at 11 area sites, ranging from soup kitchens and homeless shelters to organizations serving children and the elderly?

The teens were participating in the second annual Jesuit Service Day, a student-organized voluntary event that brings together students from Christ the King College Prep, Cristo Rey High School, St. Ignatius College Prep and Loyola Academy to put into practice the Jesuit motto of being “men and women for others.”

Students helped out at the St. Columbanus Food Pantry; Deborah’s Place, which offers transitional housing for women; the Lincoln Park Community Shelter; Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly; White Rose Catholic Worker House; the Freedom School; and Cornerstone Community Services. The group that drew the most envy were those who went to Marillac House and took younger children bowling.

The group that went to Misericordia, a North Side home for more than 600 developmentally disabled children and adults, said that they wanted to have fun and meet students from other schools, as well as to do a bit of good for someone else.

The students toured some of the working areas of Misericordia — places where residents work at real jobs, developing self-confidence and a sense of dignity while earning some spending money as well. Then they ate lunch with some of the residents before helping out in the bakery packaging area and the art studio.

Paulia Reyes, a junior at Cristo Rey, 1852 W. 22nd Place, said she participated in the first Jesuit Service Day in 2012 and had fun, so she decided to do it again. If she stayed home, she said, she probably would still be sleeping at lunchtime.

Neither she nor the other students — except the site leader who coordinated the visit to Misericordia — knew where they would be sent when they arrived at St. Ignatius that morning.

Her classmate Mabely Dominguez said she came because she “wanted to give back to the community,” but she loved Misericordia.

“It’s so cute!” she said. “Everyone is so nice!”

Andrew Richter and Katie Loftus, both seniors at St. Ignatius, 1076 W. Roosevelt Road, said they came to have fun as well as to serve. Richter said a friend of his participated last year and enjoyed it, and Loftus said she always has fun when she does service projects.

She’s also working on the school mission collection, she said, so she thought if she was going to be asking other students to give, she should give some of her own time.

Francisco Cano, a junior at Cristo Rey who was the site leader for Misericordia, said students at his school, like most Jesuit schools, do a lot of service hours, and they generally get back as much or more than they give. In this case, he got to know Misericordia, where he plans to return to volunteer more.

“And just being together with the other schools is awesome,” he said.

Josh Horton, a sophomore at Christ the King, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd., liked connecting with the other students as well. It was a little uncomfortable at first, he said, because there were so many people he didn’t know, but they very quickly established a sense of camaraderie.

“That’s how it was when I first came to Christ the King,” he said, acknowledging that learning to get along with new groups of people is a valuable life skill.

Erin Croghan, a junior at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, said both with students from other schools and offering service, without knowing where, were an exercise in stepping out of her daily routine.

“I think it’s really good for high school students to get out of their comfort zones early,” she said.