Diocesan schools part of CRS Global High School Program

Jeff Wallace speaks about the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Global High School Program at a Joint Meeting for High School Theology/Campus Ministry Sept. 26 at Bethlehem Catholic High School. (Photos by John Simitz)

By TAMI QUIGLEY, Staff writer

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate the schools participating in the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Global High School Program,” said Robert Olney, welcoming school representatives gathered for the Joint Meeting for High School Theology/Campus Ministry Sept. 26 at Bethlehem Catholic High School (Becahi).

Olney is director of the Diocesan Office of Marriage and Natural Family Planning, and CRS liaison.

Representatives from the six Diocesan high schools and Mercy School for Special Learning, Allentown attended the session. Mercy is the first school for special needs to be in the program.

Olney said the program would help students be aware of the good works of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through CRS, and help them be more concerned about Catholic social justice and the needs of the poor. He added CRS is not only about emergency relief, though its work in that area is well known.

High schools represented were Allentown Central Catholic High School; Berks Catholic High School (BCHS), Reading; Becahi; Marian High School, Tamaqua; Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville; and Notre Dame High School (NDHS), Easton.

Those attending from the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Education were: Dr. Brooke Tesche, deputy superintendent, secondary education and special education; and Alexandria Cirko, assistant superintendent, religious education.

Jeff Wallace, CRS relationship manager with the Diocese of Allentown, led the program.

Wallace, who attended Bishop Alfred Schlert’s Installation Vespers, drew on three points the Bishop made and asked participants to reflect on these questions: How do you or your school seek out the disinterested, disenchanted and disconnected? How do you create a “culture of vocation” within a high school setting? How does your school form students to have hearts open to the poor and marginalized of all faiths?

Wallace also screened several videos about CRS that can be viewed on CRS’s YouTube channel.

Wallace said CRS, founded in 1947, is the official international relief organization of the USCCB. CRS works in more than 100 countries around the world, and its areas of expertise are in disaster relief, agriculture and health care.

“We help and employ people based on need, not creed,” Wallace aid. “We don’t go into a country to provide relief unless invited.”

Of the CRS Global High School Program, Wallace said, “We ground our global high schools in Gospel values.”

This means standing in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable; building up the kingdom of God; providing resources, tools and programming to help others live their faith; and creating and sustaining relationships based on respect, trust and mutuality.

“I think these things can be incorporated into what you’re doing in your high schools,” Wallace said.

He said the program creates advocates, disciples and learners, and students come out of it more globally aware, just, and responsive and faith filled.

Why have global high schools? “They are a vehicle for teaching and learning about peace, justice and solidarity,” Wallace said.

“They provide an opportunity to think globally and act locally, and are helpful for discovering your passions,” he said, adding the program is easy to incorporate into already existing classes and clubs.

The program, Wallace said, can be summed up in the words pray, learn, act and give.

How to get involved?

“Pray for the work of CRS all over the globe. Incorporate free CRS resources in your classes and clubs,” Wallace said. “Advocate on behalf of CRS by talking with faculty, staff and administration about global issues. Donate to CRS through school-wide collections.”

For example, schools can get involved in Ethical Trade – rebranded from Fair Trade – by hosting consignment sales and community orders in parishes. They can participate in the Global Migration Campaign #ShareJourney launched by Pope Francis at www.sharejourney.org. Schools can participate in CRS Rice Bowl, the Lenten program that began in the Diocese of Allentown.

In the Diocese of Allentown, ACCHS has had Eucharistic Adoration for 15 years, participates in Rice Bowl and Ethical Trade.

BCHS has adoration, participates in Rice Bowl, and is thinking about doing something for the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, as many students have relatives there.

Becahi participates in Rice Bowl.

Marian participates in Rice Bowl and has a club “Hope for All,” formed around a program focused on hunger.

Nativity participates in Rice Bowl, has First Friday Eucharistic Adoration and an Interact Club focused on hurricane victims.

NDHS participates in Rice Bowl.

Mercy has Eucharistic Adoration during Lent and takes a monetary collection for food banks.

School representatives attending were:

  • ACCHS – Father Mark Searles, chaplain; Mary Ellen Strohl, campus ministry coordinator; and Kathleen Rasley, theology chair.
  • BCHS – Suzanne Kase, campus minister.
  • Becahi – Father Kevin Bobbin, chaplain; Robert Gowell, theology chair; and Debra DeSanto, campus minister.
  • Marian – Mary Matunis, campus minister and theology teacher.
  • Nativity – Father David Loeper, chaplain and pastor of St. John the Baptist, Pottsville; and Daniel Lisella, theology chair.
  • NDHS – Father Christopher Butera, chaplain; Cassandra Boccardi, theology teacher; and Sharon Hillhouse, campus ministry coordinator.
  • Mercy – Elizabeth Grys, principal.

Olney said Deacon Joseph Petrauskas of St. Columbkill, Boyertown and Deacon Maurice Kelly of St. Peter Coplay are CRS Global Associates who will travel overseas next year.

Wallace is a graduate of St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia and earned a master’s degree in divinity from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He spent a year as a long-term volunteer at the Rostro de Cristo in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which helped him become proficient in Spanish. He was previously campus minster of Marrimack College, North Andover, Massachusetts.

For more information on the CRS Global High School Program, click here.