Engaging Students With Box of Joy®

Written by Tessie O’Dea, Relationship Development Manager, Cross Catholic Outreach, [email protected]

When asked about his first encounter with Cross Catholic Outreach, Bishop Earl Fernandes of the Diocese of Columbus, OH, mentioned several admired characteristics of the ministry, but highlighted his experience with Box of Joy. “I was very impressed by how Cross Catholic Outreach actually engaged families. I think that’s why Box of Joy continues to grow. It engages children. It makes them more aware of the situation of children around the world, of the dire conditions of poverty and malnutrition.” 

The value of engagement Bishop Fernandes focused on is one Cross Catholic Outreach understands very well. Years of experience have taught us that there is great spiritual value in creating a direct link between young people in the U.S. and their peers in the developing world. One of the reasons is that children see the plight of poverty and don’t worry about whether they are too young to solve all the world’s problems. Instead, they are motivated by raw compassion and are willing to start by helping one person at a time. That’s why we love partnering with Catholic schools. Those students are eager to put what they have learned about the Corporal Works of Mercy into immediate and direct action.

Dulce Maria was six years old when she received her first Box of Joy. During a recent reunion with CEO Jim Cavnar, she shared the many blessings she’s received since that first gift through the work of local Church leaders supported by Cross Catholic Outreach.

Why Box of Joy Began

In 2015, the Holy Spirit moved Cross Catholic Outreach leaders to begin a new outreach that would connect students in the U.S. with children in developing countries. CEO Jim Cavnar shared, “We were having discussions about how to raise foreign mission awareness among children who will be the next generation of donors. I was recalling how much mission awareness there was in the Church when I was growing up.”

Jim’s own experience was with the Maryknoll priests who often visited Catholic grade schools to share the struggles of children in developing countries with the children here in the U.S. through Lent and Advent programs. This personal experience led to the initial purpose of Box of Joy: providing U.S. children with a way to learn about and support their peers in foreign countries where today’s Catholic missionaries are serving the poor.

When Bishop Fernandes involved his last parish in this inspiring ministry, those students and families became part of an act of love and service that has endured in the Church for many decades. We hope you will consider bringing this same inspiring mission of mercy to your school. The connection children feel to those who receive one of the gifts they have packed is truly priceless.

Faithful Catholic schools have played a key role in helping us send 646,163 Box of Joy gifts to children around the globe since 2015!

How To Get Started

When you sign up at www.boxofjoy.org, you will receive a project leader kit that will help you get started right away! Inside you will find everything you need, including easy gift ideas you can share with your school’s families.

We encourage you to start by taking time in the classroom to remind students about the Corporal Works of Mercy and to connect them with the mission they are helping as they assemble a Box of Joy. You will find inspiring stories you can share at www.crosscatholic.org. These will help your students better understand the plight of vulnerable children who lack food, clean water, shelter and educational opportunities.

Ultimately, our goal is for your students to see each shoebox-sized gift as so much more than a box of toys, clothing and school supplies. We want them to see it as a meaningful connection between them and less fortunate children like them who also aspire to succeed and dream of a better, brighter future.

Please seize this opportunity to join the many parishes and schools that regularly partner with Cross Catholic Outreach to bring awareness of foreign missions to their students. Your decision to become involved will allow your students to be mobilized as Christ once mobilized his disciples — “to go out to all the nations” as a source of hope and joy. 

Watch this video to learn more about how other schools engage in our Box of Joy ministry:

Box of Joy is a registered trademark of Cross Catholic Outreach.