By Cecile San Agustin

High school students show solidarity with needy in hometown and the world


Reaching from Dover in Morris County, N.J. to Malawi in Africa, students at Morris Catholic High School in Morris County, N.J. have partnered together to show their solidarity with those in need.

Recently, students hosted an Empty Bowls dinner to bring solidarity and awareness to those living in poverty in the African nation of Malawi and to also bring support to Hope House in Dover, N.J., an agency of diocesan Catholic Charities that serves the needy in Morris County. The Empty Bowls Project is a grassroots effort to fight hunger created by the Image Render Group.

For several weeks, students in Lauren Caruso's art class made clay bowls. The colorful and creative hand crafted clay bowls were then sold at the dinner fundraiser. For the dinner, members of the school's campus ministry volunteered to serve patrons a simple meal of soup and bread while Key Club members hosted a fair trade sale, featuring hand-made goods from artisans in developing nations. Proceeds helped both the Empty Bowls Project and Hope House in Paterson, N.J. in their service to the poor.

The purpose of the bowls, according to Jeanne Gradone, director of student services at Morris Catholic High School, was "for families to bring the bowls home and place the empty bowls on their dinner table. The empty bowls symbolize the many people around the world who don't have a meal that day. It is to bring awareness that the majority of people around the world have empty bowls. We don't want people to feel guilty about what they have, but we want them to consciously make a commitment to live in solidarity with the poor and have a constant reminder to pray for them."

During the process of making the bowls, students focused on those in Malawi, while having an awareness of their place in the world family and at the same time concentrate on its local family.

"We also wanted to support Hope House and help the local residents they serve. The agency supports many of our neighbors in Morris County and also the many people who were affected by the floods last August in the area," said Gradone.

For the past two years, the school has been immersed in a Global Solidarity school initiative, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. This year, the school is remembering orphans and vulnerable children around the world with Malawi as a focus. Last year, the school was centered on the theme of peace building and looked to examples from the Holy Land.

"The mission of CRS," said Gradone, "is to allow people to become self sufficient. The people in many of these nations know what they need; they just need the resources to succeed."

During Lent, which begins this year on Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday, the school will continue to support Catholic Relief Services through the agency's well-known Operation Rice Bowl program. The students will learn more about the countries featured in the program and learn to be an advocate for those around the world.

Gradone said, "We want the students at Morris Catholic to know their place in the world and make connections with people. We want them to say about others, 'I value the gift that you are.'"

Posted with permission from the Diocese of Paterson, N.J.

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