In the letter of James, we are told by St. James to “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I, by my works, will show you my faith” (James 2:18). It is this very scripture verse that the students of Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School hoped to express on March 29, 2010, at Montgomery Catholic’s Lenten Day of Service. High school students went out in the Montgomery community to serve 17 non-profit organizations throughout the River Region. On this very day, one group found themselves receiving more than they had hoped to give when they spent the day at the Father Walter Memorial Child Care Center in Montgomery. When we first arrived, we spent the morning giving back to the community by doing the expected service day activities like raking leaves, pulling weeds, sweeping walkways, and helping to prepare the floors of Resurrection Catholic Church for the Easter Triduum Services; however, it was the work that we did with the children that would leave a lasting impression on all of our lives.
One such experience involved a young man named Nicholas. While on a tour of the facilities, we were introduced to this remarkable young man who, after surgery, was left in a condition that would lead to his finding a home at the Father Walter Child Care Center. What impressed us the most was Nicholas’ love of two things that speak to the heart of every American: Gospel music and football. Immediately, Nicholas would find a connection with MCPS student and football player, M.L. Shipman, who spent time, along with his classmates Kirsten Lancaster and Clarissa Deal, singing gospel hymns like “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art”, and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”. After the students sang their gospel serenade, the students were greeted with Nicholas’ loving smile and acceptance of their vocal styling.
At the same time in another room, students Alex Taylor, Brittney Wilkinson, Christine Spotswood, Marissa Marmolejo, Elizabeth Karst, and Sarah Lyerly spent the afternoon reading stories to many of the children. One of the children in particular, ‘Lil Wayne, would smile, laugh, and though in a wheelchair, it was obvious he wanted to jump and hug each and every one of them. As we were leaving that afternoon, ‘Lil Wayne vocalized his love to us in the short phrase, “Come back!”
Lastly, two other students, Courtney Willcox and Cathy Ranieri, would find great joy in another national past time–bowling. As the students were helping to set up, they were introduced to a young man nicknamed “Spud”. As they positioned Spud’s wheelchair for bowling, he gazed at them with a slight hint of confusion because he knew the students had not positioned his wheelchair in the right place for him to effectively roll a strike. Once Spud was in just the right spot, he showed the girls his amazing bowling skills as he shouted with joy and clapped his hands acknowledging his talent.
We began the day with great expectation as to what we could give on the third annual Lenten Service Day and our hearts were changed as we saw the service that the children of Father Walter Memorial Child Care Center gave to us! Though wheelchair-bound and, in many instances, unable to vocalize, these children gave the only thing they had to give–themselves. In doing so, they gave us their smiles full of joy, their laughter full of cheer, and more importantly, they gave us their hearts full of love. Speaking on behalf of the students of Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School, this is one service day that will change our lives forever.
Pictured: Montgomery Catholic students M.L. Shipman, Clarissa Deal, and Kirsten Lancaster read books to the children at Father Walter Memorial Child Care Center in Montgomery during Montgomery Catholic’s 3rd Annual Lenten Service Day. Photos by Mary Kelley.
Ryan Bravata is the High School Youth Minister at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church and a faculty member in the Theology Department at Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School.