March 27, 2020

Roncalli students prepare 60,000 meals for people in need in one day

Michelle Belden, left, Kassie Carman, Meg Leising, Chiara Schilten and Peyton Jones, all juniors at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, assemble meals on March 11 for people in need through an initiative organized by Cross Catholic Outreach. Over the course of the day, Roncalli students assembled 60,000 meals that will be distributed to people in need in such countries as Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Michelle Belden, left, Kassie Carman, Meg Leising, Chiara Schilten and Peyton Jones, all juniors at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, assemble meals on March 11 for people in need through an initiative organized by Cross Catholic Outreach. Over the course of the day, Roncalli students assembled 60,000 meals that will be distributed to people in need in such countries as Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Lent is a time when Catholics as individuals take up the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving in a special way.

Sometimes, these practices are done in part to help other people.

What difference might be made if lots of Catholics got together during Lent to combine their efforts?

That’s what happened recently at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

On March 11, its more than 1,000 students prepared 60,000 meals for people in need in countries around the world.

It was an initiative organized by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based Catholic Cross Outreach.

In shifts throughout the school day, students came to a gym at Roncalli to fill bags with 390 grams of rice, beans, dehydrated vegetables, soy and vitamin packets.

Cross Catholic Outreach will distribute those bags to local ministries helping people in need in several countries, including Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua.

“Service is a huge part of what we do,” said Roncalli senior Ryan Flick, a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. “We’re all required to complete service hours. But if you talk to a lot of students, so many of them go above and beyond the required service we have to do. This is an example of us making an impact on the world.”

Jeff Traylor, Roncalli’s campus ministry director, was in the gym all day as the students assembled thousands of meals.

“It’s been amazing to watch,” he said. “Our kids are such hard workers and are dedicated to what they’re doing. We’ve had to do more slowing them down than to speed them up. They’re so good at what they do and are excited to be a part of it.”

In addition to putting in a day’s work to prepare 60,000 meals, Roncalli’s students are seeking to raise $17,000 during Lent to help pay for the meals and their distribution.

To help prepare them for this Lenten effort, a priest who does ministry through Cross Catholic Outreach spoke to Roncalli’s students on Ash Wednesday.

“He told our students that they were going to be the hands and feet of Christ,” Traylor recalled.

Then the priest saw banners hanging from the gym’s ceiling highlighting Roncalli’s athletic excellence.

“He said, ‘I know you have championship DNA in you. I want you to be champions for the poor,’ ” Traylor said. “Our kids get that. They get that they have an opportunity to use their influence where they’re at in life to be champions for the poor.”

For Erika Kvak, Catholic Cross Outreach’s development officer who was at Roncalli on March 11, the impact of the effort to prepare 60,000 meals reaches beyond the high school’s 1,050 students.

“This is something that they will talk about with friends, family and in the community,” Kvak said. “They’ll spread the word about what can be done to serve the poor. That’s our reason for being here today. We want to ignite as many people as possible to help serve.”

So far this year, Catholic Cross Outreach has worked with parishes, Catholic schools and organizations like the Knights of Columbus across the country to assemble 500,000 meals.

Last year, the ministry provided more than $300 million in aid from donors in the U.S. that was distributed to people in need in 28 countries through hunger relief, housing and water programs.

So much of that assistance comes about when individual Catholics band together to combine their efforts for the good of others.

“Our teachers always ask us to go out to give service,” said Roncalli junior Chiara Schilten, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Franklin. “So, it was cool that we came together as a school to do that here.

“Roncalli, as a school, wants to help others as best as we can. This is our way of living out the faith and showing people what being a Catholic is really about.”

Being part of an effort to provide 60,000 meals to people in need around the world over the course of about eight hours made Ryan Flick want to do more.

“It’s one day and we’re helping 60,000 people,” Ryan said. “Just think if we did this multiple times in a year how many people we could help that way.”
 

(For more information on Cross Catholic Outreach, visit crosscatholic.org.)

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