“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18
Each year The Parish School at St. Edward the Confessor sets a yearly theme and accompanying scripture passage which serves as the lighthouse for the upcoming academic year. The 2018-2019 theme focuses on stewardship and how these Christian actions unlock the gate and bring us closer to God and His kingdom. The theme guides the curriculum and faith formation efforts throughout the year, including a dedicated monthly stewardship program that involves all St. Edward learners, from preschool through eighth grade, in a meaningful, hands-on way.
The third grade’s stewardship project is the Thanksgiving food drive, in conjunction with Serra’s Pantry at Mission San Juan Capistrano. To help the eight and nine year olds more fully understand the impact of their stewardship efforts, they incorporated a trip to Serra’s Pantry as part of their annual pilgrimage/retreat to the mission.
“You gave us Mary as the model for following Christ, grant that through her example, we may live a life of faith, hope, and charity.” On Oct. 16, more than 100 third graders, teachers and parent chaperones gathered on the St. Edward bluff and began this pilgrimage prayer. Armed with matching backpacks, t-shirts and a long prayer chain, the pilgrims walked in prayer and song from their Dana Point school to the Mission Basilica. The entire third grade trekked three miles carrying a basket of prayer intentions for loved ones. The pilgrims sang praise and worship songs with a music minister at snack stations and again at lunch at Los Rios Park on the original mission grounds.
Once they arrived at the mission, the pilgrims toured the basilica to learn about Saint Junipero Serra and other saints depicted in statues and altars, such as Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Saint Peregrine. They learned historical symbolism in the beautiful artwork, such as the number of swallows hidden in the pillars of the golden altarpiece standing four stories tall.
Following the mission tour, they visited Serra’s Pantry, a kitchen at the parish that collects and disperses donations of food and personal hygiene items to local residents in need. They saw firsthand how the shelves are stocked and what items are needed most.
Inspired and educated by their experience at Serra’s Pantry, they returned to school to plan their schoolwide Feed the Hungry Food Drive to benefit Serra’s Pantry. At Serra, they learned that the three most-needed items are peanut butter, jelly, and cereal as families can stretch these items into multiple meals. They also learned that organizations such as Serra’s Pantry are very resourceful and work in collaboration with local grocery stores and other agencies to provide items such as produce and protein that might not otherwise be available.
Each learner was asked to bring in at least one item to help support those in need in the local South Orange County community. To encourage donations, all homeroom classes with 100 percent participation earned a free dress day. Thanks to the generosity of the St. Edward community, the third grade collected hundreds of grocery bags for Serra’s Pantry, providing a happier Thanksgiving for the less fortunate in the community.