though my school is not a parish, it is the community I am most deeply
involved with. I will therefore reflect on how we as a school community
have responded to the call to undertake mission. In 1990, I became involved
as volunteer pastoral worker in a residence that was mostly for elderly
people who needed ongoing care. I was asked to visit residents in one
of the wings. There were about 75 residents in that wing. I did this for
about two years. I realized that there were never enough hours in a week
to listen to the people I visited. They would speak to me at length about
their lives, their families, their frustrations. I recognized that all
they needed was someone to listen to them. At the end of their life journey
they needed to tell their story, mainly to unravel its meaning for themselves.
I was happy to be there for them. At the same time though I could see
that I could never visit more than a handful of them each week. I did
not have enough ears to go around. In 1991 I decided to involve some of
my students (my grade 8 students). We went to the residence on a regular
basis throughout the year. The students were paired up with a resident.
They provided the ears (and much more) that I could not provide alone.
It worked so well that I repeated the experience every year until 1996.
A Sense of Mission
by Gilles Côté
every mass when the gifts are brought up we are invited to offer
our own lives, our weaknesses as well as our strengths, to God.
By this symbolic action we are asking God to transform us into the
body of Christ, to make us more like him. To be more like Jesus
is to be more of a servant. The Eucharist should therefore help
us become God's servants, ready to do his will. Like Jesus we are
to be open to the needs of others. We are to be a sign of hope for
them. We are to be peacemakers and healers in a broken and wounded
world. When we are dismissed from the mass it should be with a sense
of mission, to go and be Jesus for others.
I live near
an orchard with apples, pears, cherries all around. Every year we get
to pick more than enough for ourselves. I therefore started bringing some
of the surplus to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. I became aware of
the fact that what I brought was hardly making a dent in meeting the need.
It was gone as soon as I brought it. I mentioned to someone that if we
had land, our students could grow food for those who were in need in our
community. Last May, someone who had land near our school offered it to
us to grow food for the Food Bank. By the end of the summer, with the
help of about 30 students (our total school population was 190 at the
time) to plant, weed and harvest, we had produced over 2400 pounds of
fresh produce. We have planted a garden again this year. We try to promote
a sense of service in our students in many other ways. I must say that
we often must fight against a current of "What is there in it for me?"
I suspect that if there are even a few people in a parish who become enough
aware of the needs of others in the community, and if they are open to
doing something about it, compassion will propel them into being creative
about how to go about meeting those needs.
PS: The fourth annual
garden was planted and harvested in 1999. The school is Immaculata
Regional High School in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.
©Gilles Côté, 2001