Students from Pre-K to College came together in service of “The Dear Neighbor”
On Friday, January 12, students, staff, and faculty from three sponsored educational ministries of the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJ) – Chestnut Hill College (CHC), Mount Saint Joseph Academy (MSJA), and Norwood-Fontbonne Academy (NFA) – participated in a service day to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The day started with a prayer service to ground all participants in the SSJ spirituality as well as King’s enduring legacy to fight injustice. The presidents of all three institutions attended the prayer service, along with students, faculty, and staff.
“It was a pleasure to be part of this special day for the Sponsored Ministries of the Sisters of Saint Joseph,” says Charlene Diorka, SSJ, president of MSJA. “Much like the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph to bring all into unity with God, with one another, and with all creation, Dr. King believed in the power of coming together to create profound change and justice. At the Mount, we foster the belief that our students can live lives as agents of transformation, and we saw that in action today as they served the dear neighbor and deepened the bonds between our institutions in the name of caring for our dear neighbors in need.”
Following the prayer service, the volunteers participated in shifts, coming together to pack 13,824 meals for Kids Against Hunger, a “non-profit humanitarian organization with a mission to provide fully nutritious food to impoverished children and families around the world...and around the corner.” According to their website, their goal is to use meals to provide a stable source of nutrition that can allow families to move beyond starvation and food insecurity to a place of self-sufficiency. Since its origins in the late 1990s, Kids Against Hunger has helped pack meals for over 160 million families, spanning over 65 countries.
“Chestnut Hill College is blessed to be taking part in MLK Day of Service, alongside our friends at Norwood Fontbonne and Mount St. Joseph Academy," says William W. Latimer, Ph.D., MPH, president of the College. "Today and every day, we share in the mission and charism of our founders, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, as we look to be 'ready for any good work' and to serve the Dear Neighbor, without distinction at home and abroad. As we remember the life and work of the great Dr. King, I can think of no better way to spend this day of service than with other SSJ sponsored ministries in support of Kids Against Hunger, a truly wonderful organization."
During the service, NFA students were paired with MSJA and CHC students, along with volunteering faculty and staff, to create an assembly line. The volunteers worked together to assemble meal packages that feed a household of six people. After each set of five bags were filled, a student rang a bell to celebrate the good work of the volunteers. Through Kids Against Hunger’s Philadelphia chapter, the meal packages assembled by the volunteers will be distributed in Philadelphia and the surrounding five counties and sent abroad to disaster areas for people in need.
“The day was incredibly successful; it was great to see the generations of students volunteer together grounded in mission and to further food justice. It shows that the mission can speak to any age,” says Krista Murphy, Ph.D., vice president of strategic innovation at Chestnut Hill College. “The key thing that the sisters desire is that we are all working to take care of the dear neighbor and the message of inclusion spans from young children to adults. It was amazing to see how 5th graders and college students can give word to mission that is age appropriate. Through this day of service, we are all partners in inclusivity, and we are making sure to do God’s work together.”
In addition to the service work for Kids Against Hunger, members of the Chestnut Hill College men and women’s basketball teams were on hand to help in the classroom, assisting in the lessons being taught about the impact of King’s lifelong civil rights advocacy.
“Service is very important to us as a College, but also as a team, to give back to the community and people in need,” notes Andrew Radomicki, head men’s basketball coach at Chestnut Hill College. “Not only do we talk about it on the basketball court but off it as well so it’s great to see it in action as our guys did a great job volunteering in the classroom and packing meals and bringing a lot of joy to the younger students who seemed excited to hang out with the College kids.”
Partnering on the MLK Day of Service is just one element of a new initiative between the sponsored educational ministries led by Murphy. According to Murphy, this initiative between the schools will provide an “opportunity for staff and faculty, who are all serving different ages of students, to exchange ideas and to further the charism of the sisters.” Murphy also emphasizes that this partnership is just the beginning as her long-term goal is to unite to serve other sponsored social justice initiatives including The SSJ Welcome Center in Kensington and The Neighborhood Center in Camden.
"This is an exciting day for the Sponsored Ministries of the Sisters of Saint Joseph,” says Ryan Killeen, Ph.D., president of NFA and director of sponsorship of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia. “The legacy of Dr. King calls all of us to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in our one, global human family. Like Dr. King, we want to be people of conviction, putting our faith into action, in service to and relationship with our neighbor. It is beautiful to see our community come together today and deepen the relationships between the educational ministries of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Chestnut Hill College, and Norwood-Fontbonne Academy. I am so grateful to our entire team for planning and executing this day, uniting us with a common purpose so that all people may be united with God and one another. It is a day filled with joy, dedicated to our mission, and building lifelong commitments to service."
Jacqueline Coval ’24 volunteered as a student leader working throughout the day to teach younger students about the importance of MLK Day in addition to providing a reflection at the prayer service. "To volunteer as a student at CHC allows me to connect with other students and people from the surrounding communities and to learn new outlooks on life from them,” says Coval. “I appreciate the opportunity to get to know members of the community, whether it be students from Norwood-Fontbonne and Mount St. Joseph or the people we serve. Forming relationships is at the heart of volunteering and helps me to realize how similar we all are and how much every person has to offer one another.”
- Jaime Renman