NCEA is pleased to offer a series of service projects, prayers and activities surrounding the series of Catholic Social Teachings each month. The summaries and scripture references were taken from The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
November: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable (A Tie into Thanksgiving)
A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. (USCCB 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching)
Service Project Suggestion: Serve a meal at a local soup kitchen, but also eat the lunch with the guests who come for the meal and learn their stories.
Modern Connection: Health care, affordable housing and other political debates
Prayer Service Suggestion:
Opening Prayer: Creator God, you care for all of us. We know your desire for us to thrive and prosper. Please help us to be ever mindful of those in our community who do not have the resources necessary to survive. Give us the strength and conviction to do what we can to help those who need it. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 25:34-40
Reflection: A student or faculty or staff member should give a brief reflection on the importance of serving those in need. Different students/faculty members could share what service means to them and a series of images and/or video of members of the school community participating in acts of service could be shown as part of the reflection.
Reflective Activity: Students could be given a postcard and outline to write a brief letter to local legislators urging them to take a stance on issues that will benefit the poor and vulnerable (lobbying for affordable housing, access to education, etc.). When completed, these could be brought up and placed in baskets at the alter area/front of the room to be mailed after the prayer. If the school is too large to do this in a prayerful manner together, students could write something beforehand in theology or English classes and a representative bring them forward while images of students participating in service are shown.
Closing Prayer: God of Justice open our eyes to see you in the face of the poor. Open our ears to hear you in the cries of the exploited. Open our mouths to defend you in the public squares as well as in private deeds Remind us that what we do to the least ones, we do to you. Amen. *From Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice, USCCB, April, 1998
Green Street Park and Drop by Drop are two books for children in grades K-5 that help parents, teachers and children see examples of how to participate in solutions to important problems related to the life and dignity of others. Green Street Park is a story about Philip, his family, friends, and neighbors, who learn to imitate the model of St. Francis of Assisi by caring for creation in their own neighborhood. In Drop by Drop, children learn about how lack of water affects a little girl name Sylvie and her family, and after seeing how the problem got solved, they make a plan to help. Also available are “black line masters,” or on-line educational supplements for teachers to use as worksheets, as well as “Pray Me a Story” reflections for use with the books. These books are available from Loyola Press. http://www.loyolapress.com/twofeet
See additional material from CRS for ideas of serving the poor and vulnerable.
Explanation/Activity: The option for the Poor and Vulnerable reminds us that how we treat those who do not have what we have is important. We need to be actively working to ensure that there are just systems in place, not just to provide immediate assistance to those in need, but to help them move permanently out of poverty.
During this month, we celebrate Thanksgiving, which is a time not only to be thankful for all the blessings we have been given, but to also help those who may not have enough. Organize an all school food drive to collect food to provide Thanksgiving meals for people in need. Or organize a group of families/students to serve the Thanksgiving meal at a local soup kitchen.
A single day of service for the entire community could also be organized, where the entire community (parents, students, teachers, staff and administration) gets together to complete a project for the community. This could be as simple as raking leaves for residents of the community who can’t do it themselves or some other fall project. This could be set up through a local community organization or organized on your own.
Also emphasize the two feet of Social Justice: Charity and Justice. Charity describes direct acts that provide short term support to meet basic needs of housing, food and health. Justice describes work to remove injustice and work to improve the root causes of the problem. This could involve things such as lobbying government officials, writing letters to people in influence, work to improve the education system. See more about this exercise here.