In the Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, Our Lord tells us that when He comes in glory to judge men, He will assess them based on how they have treated Him. When the righteous ask when they ever fed or clothed Him, He replies “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). In so doing, He makes it clear to each and every one of us that we must serve those in need.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church further emphasizes the need to assist the poor, expressing a “preferential love” for “those who are oppressed by poverty” (CCC 2448). This love includes not just material poverty, “but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty” (CCC 2444).
We have thus taken as our inspiration for our high school Christian service program the model of the Works of Mercy:
The Corporal Works of Mercy
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
- To give drink to the thirsty
- To harbor the harborless (to shelter the homeless)
- To forgive offences willingly
- To ransom the captive (to visit the imprisoned)
- To pray for the living and the dead
The goal of our program is to assist our high school students in becoming mature Christians through learning to live a life of service to others according to these Works of Mercy.
All Trinity Prep high school students are required to perform 15 hours of Christian service per year with an approved organization or individual. The work must benefit the poor in some capacity—those who are poor materially, physically, emotionally or spiritually. All work/projects must be pre-approved by the Principal or his designee. At least half of the required hours must be direct service (where the student has face-to-face contact with those being served), while the remainder may be indirect service (work that benefits the poor without direct contact with those being served). No more than five (5) hours annually may be served at Kolbe Academy & Trinity Prep. Work done at the school must still be pre-approved. A variety of different types of service is strongly encouraged—students should be willing to get outside their comfort zones. Particular emphasis should be given to service opportunities that develop a student’s God-given talents and help them to grow in virtue.
Work for the next school year may begin as early as June 1 of each year (including June 1 of the 8th Grade year) and must be completed by August 15 of the summer following a given year. Senior year service (and the cumulative total required service) must be completed by May 31 of senior year in order for the student to walk at graduation and receive a diploma. Students must turn in signed service forms to document the hours spent. Forms must be signed by the individual responsible for supervising a student’s work. Failure to make adequate progress from year to year will result in students being ineligible to participate in co-curricular or extra-curricular activities such as athletics, clubs, dances, etc.
Upon completion of a given year’s service hours, students must submit a 1-2 page Reflection Paper. This paper should be double-spaced in 12-point font and address the following:
- Why did you choose this organization or individual to serve?
- Describe the service and how it affected those served.
- How did this service affect you?
As mentioned above, agencies or programs must be pre-approved non-profit organizations, convalescent or nursing homes, or approved individuals. In addition, organizations must not be in opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church, as determined by the school. Work must be performed on the student’s time, i.e., students will not be excused from school to perform service except in extraordinary situations and with the explicit approval of the Principal or his designee. Student may not receive any compensation for the service, nor may the service be for a family member or family-related organization. Fundraising or participation in a walk-a-thon or similar activity, even for an approved organization, do not count toward service hours. Travel time does not count toward service hours.
Direct Service Examples
- Serve meals at a shelter or temporary residence
- Deliver meals to poor or shut-ins
- Hand out food at a food pantry
- Build/repair a house with Habitat for Humanity
- Visit residents/patients at nursing homes or hospitals
- Volunteer at hospitals and have direct contact (visiting) with patients
- Visit prisoners
- Take a mission trip to an underprivileged area
- Teach religious education at a parish or at a summer Vacation Bible School
- Tutor underprivileged children
- Volunteer at schools for the underprivileged/disabled helping the children
- Volunteer with Special Olympics as a hugger, cheerer, etc.
- Volunteer as a camp counselor for disabled/underprivileged children
- Volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center with direct contact with those served
- Witness at an abortion clinic (a total of five direct hours may be counted)
- Attend the annual March for Life in San Francisco (a total of three hours may be counted)
Indirect Service Examples
- Parish activities (cleaning, maintenance, etc.)
- Pack meals for the poor
- Shelve items at a food pantry
- Work performed for Catholic Charities with no direct contact with the poor
- Volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center with no direct contact
- Help at fundraisers for charity
- Volunteer at the headquarters of a charity organization
- Serve/set-up/clean-up activities that benefit the poor
- Sort/organize gifts for the poor
- Cooking at a homeless shelter/soup kitchen
- Work at hospital that does not involve patient contact (office work, maintenance, etc.)
The following are unacceptable for consideration as service either because they are not works of mercy, do not serve the poor, or are not easily verifiable:
- Trash Pick-up, Clearing Trails
- Sports (coaching, tournament help, etc); exceptions: working with organizations such as Special Olympics, Boys/Girls Club, Knights of Columbus, tournaments for which all the proceeds are for charity
- Things done for relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.)
- Private or communal prayer/devotions
- Work for political campaigns or rallies
- Work at doctors’ offices
- Anything pertaining to work with animals that is not a therapy program
- Camps that are not specifically held for the disadvantaged
- Donating money to a cause or charity