Educators feed the hungry abroad through service at home

As 120 educators and administrators entered the gymnasium of Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, they hurriedly grabbed aprons, hairnets, and gloves, wasting no time getting to their food packing stations.

“Cardinal Newman is thrilled to be the Central Deanery station for the Something Greater Food Packing Event,” said school principal Dr. Christine Higgins above the din of activity. “The students have been raising money for this event since October, and now it’s the teachers’ turn to contribute in modeling our faith in action.”

The “Something Greater Food Packing Event,” which took place on Jan. 17, was coordinated by the Office of Catholic Schools in conjunction with Cross Catholic Outreach, a non-profit organization that provides food, shelter, medical care, water, education, self-help programs, care for orphans and emergency relief to the poor in local dioceses and in countries like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

“We have facilitated many food packing events, but this is the first time we’ve organized simultaneous food packings at three different locations,” said Gus Cruz, volunteer coordinator for Cross Catholic Outreach. “This takes our ministry to a whole new level.”

The Northern, Central and Southern deanery of the Diocese of Palm Beach were represented at John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce, Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach and St. Joan of Arc School in Boca Raton. Food assembly began at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t stop until 12:30 p.m. More than 400 educators and administrators from the 17 diocesan Catholic schools came together to assemble 120,000 packaged meals.

Although the packing was done by educators and school administrators, Catholic school students throughout the diocese were responsible for raising the $30,000 to purchase the ingredients for the Vitafood packs. This nutrient-rich food product is scienti?cally designed to meet the dietary needs of chronically malnourished children and adults.

“The students at Cardinal Newman are naturally very giving,” said band director David Bayardelle. “They’ve gotten this from being in a giving, service-minded environment only learned at a Catholic school.”

Teachers from the Northern and Southern deanery stations echoed similar sentiments about the willingness to serve that permeates Catholic school faculty. “This event is an amazing thing,” said Eric Keiper, music teacher and dean of students at St. Vincent Ferrer School in Delray Beach. “The fact that all of us can come together in our small community and feed an entire group of people on the other side of the world, that’s God’s work right here in everything we do.”

Stacey Manzi, resource teacher at St. Joseph School in Stuart, noted that the food packing event put into perspective the reality many in poor countries face. “The Holy Spirit is in this room where we’re all gathered together packing food for people throughout the world who are hungry and need sustenance. It calls to mind people who do jobs like this every day, who are underpaid and working in poor conditions. We’re blessed to have fellowship, food, and families to return to. I thank the Lord for this enlightening experience today.”

Natalie LaFleur, middle school religion teacher at All Saints School in Jupiter, shared, “All the teachers of the Diocese of Palm Beach are putting their faith into action—practicing what we preach—by giving to the needy communities around the world. I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity to be the example we strive to be to our students.”

Barbara Higgins, vice principal at St. Jude School in Boca Raton, said, “It’s an amazing feeling to be around such selfless people with a heart for service.”

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