Students at Holy Redeemer School in College Park place at the altar their donations of baby goods that will be delivered to St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville. The collection was held as part of Holy Redeemer's Catholic Schools Week celebration of service.
Students at Holy Redeemer School in College Park place at the altar their donations of baby goods that will be delivered to St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville. The collection was held as part of Holy Redeemer's Catholic Schools Week celebration of service.
The diapers and baby formula were stacked to the roof of the blue Toyota minivan that took donations from students and faculty at Holy Redeemer School in College Park to St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville on Jan. 26.

The maternity home that they donated to provides residential care and services to pregnant adolescents, and parenting adolescents in crisis. The home also provides day-care to children of working families.

Even Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, joined in helping pack the mini-van. Weitzel- O'Neill said she thinks it is remarkable that "every single child" at the school was involved with the service project.

It "definitely made a difference in their lives," she said. The activity coincides with the national theme of Catholic Schools Week - "Catholic Schools Celebrate Service." Catholic Schools Week runs from Jan. 25-31 this year.

Ben Gardenhour, an eighth grader, said the students are helping the babies at St. Ann's because "they can't speak for themselves ... and they can't care for themselves, so it is our job to help them." The babies at St. Ann's are "not my real siblings, but it is kind of like I care for them like they were my real siblings," he said.

Gardenhour said his faith calls him to help people in need. "In the last Gospel, God calls us to serve others," he said.

The school's principal, Maria Bovich, said she was shocked to find out how much baby supplies such as diapers and formula actually cost.

"This takes a big percentage of income if the mom isn't working, or if the mom is down on her luck," she said.

The students also participated in a prayer service that morning. During the service students brought up the donations and placed them on the altar.

Ryan Bishop, a second grader, read a poem by Beth Fisher titled "A Newborn's Prayer," during the prayer service. Part of the poem says "Here I am Daddy and Mama, a gift from the Lord up above, To brighten your days with joy untold, and to fill our home with love ..."

Bovich, read a "Prayer for Life" composed of both words from Pope John Paul II and her own thoughts. Part of the prayer says "Merciful God, we ask your pardon and forgiveness for the failure of all people to respect and foster all forms of life in our universe. Gracious God, we pray that with your grace, all people will protect, and promote all life and that we will be especially sensitive to the life of the unborn, the abused, the neglected, the disabled, and the elderly."

Elizabeth Mehalick, a sixth grader, said Holy Redeemer school tries to help the community, especially women and babies in need.

"Maybe when we have a hard time we will get help," she said. Mehalick added that faith calls us to help others , and service helps her stay "more connected to God by helping others like Jesus did."

Kylegh Rose, an eighth grader, said the babies at St. Ann's "are so small that they need our help more than regular people."

The principal said the service activities are something students will remember for the rest of their lives.

She said people involved with service take a break from thinking about themselves and begin to think about others. Bovich added that service brings people together, and it requires that they "reach outside of themselves."

Weitzel-O'Neill said the entire institution of Catholic schools was built on service, especially the service of dedicated teachers who don't earn much money but are committed to Catholic education.

"That is the foundation. If that did not exist, those schools would not exist," she said.