Carondelet's Lenten Project Focuses on Refugee Crisis

Students to collect, donate baby carriers and relief packs

Concord, Calif. (March 11, 2016) – Students at Carondelet High School are taking this Lenten season to learn more about the plight of refugees around the world, and how teenagers can make a difference for refugee families.

Led by the school's Spiritual Life Council (SLC), a student group that plans spiritual activities for the campus community, Carondelet students chose to focus on the refugee crisis during Lent because they knew about it from the news but wanted to understand it more fully.

"This is a relevant issue politically and in our faith community, and many of the refugees who are fleeing their homes are people of faith," said Eva Bergman, a junior and SLC member. "Our Catholic teachings tell us to reach out and help. We decided to use this Lenten season to build greater empathy on campus toward refugees, to learn to see beyond the stereotypes and realize that they are often families just like our own."

Adds Kaitlyn Trilevsky, a sophomore and SLC member, "We want everyone at Carondelet to get a sense of what refugees are going through, and to see that they are people just like us." Trilevsky and three other Carondelet students recently attended a Catholic Charities of the East Bay event on the refugee crisis in order to bring that information back to the school.

As part of the Lenten focus, the SLC has presented two lunchtime videos on the refugee crisis followed by open discussion. The students also created and have displayed in the center of the school a Stations of the Cross – a Catholic devotion focusing on 14 scenes from the day Jesus was crucified – using photos of refugees to relate Jesus' suffering to the modern day crisis. "We wanted these Stations to remind us to see Jesus in everyone, and see that the scenarios He endured are similar to those refugee families face today," said sophomore and SLC member Makenzie Miller.

Although the students say building campus awareness of the issue is a key goal of their Lenten project, they are also focusing on taking concrete action to help refugee families. During Carondelet's celebration of Sisterhood Week beginning on March 14, the students will talk about the difficulties and dangers facing those who have to flee their countries with small children. The school community will then begin collecting baby carriers to donate to Carry the Future, a California-based non-profit that provides baby carriers and relief packs to refugees to assist them on their long journeys (www.carrythefuture.org). The students will also collect money for Catholic Charities of the East Bay's refugee programs. The school's Holy Week liturgy the following week will be offered for the refugees.

In addition, a number of Carondelet faculty members are incorporating discussion of the refugee crisis into their English, Social Studies, Math and Religion classes. "This school-wide focus is enabling students to grapple with how complex these issues really are, and to see refugees and immigrants not as faceless numbers but as families with real concerns," said Lacy Matthews, campus minister at Carondelet. "This issue is one to which Pope Francis has called the entire Catholic Church. There is such a huge crisis right now and we as Catholics cannot look away; we need to turn toward those in need, educate ourselves about their situations, and do what we can to alleviate their suffering."

Carondelet students note that the Lenten project is already helping them gain greater awareness of the refugee crisis. "Our goal was to help build greater empathy toward refugees, to learn to see beyond the stereotypes and realize that they are not that different from our own families," junior Eva Bergman said.

Makenzie Miller noted that it felt important to take on this global issue as a high school community. "A lot of what we hear about the refugee crisis is from adults, including our parents and the news, but it is far more powerful to have these conversations with other teenagers. It is great to look at the issue from the teen point of view and consider what we ourselves can do to help."

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