April 29, 2016

Students help beautify, clean St. Patrick Cemetery

Father Aaron Jenkins, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield, stands in a dilapidated house in Greenfield that Friends of Recovery, an ecumenical ministry in Hancock County, hopes to renovate so it can serve as a home for women in recovery from addictions. St. Michael Parish supports Friends of Recovery. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Briseida Reyes Miranda, left, and Lydia Goebel were among the students from Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison who helped to clean and beautify nearby St. Patrick Cemetery on April 16. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The sun streamed across the southern Indiana sky, giving extra brilliance to an unexpectedly warm Saturday morning in the spring.

For most teenagers, it was a morning ripe for sleeping in, for relaxing with friends and family, for practicing or playing a sport, for … just about anything.

And on this gorgeous blue-sky morning of April 16, Bryan Avalos, Lydia Goebel, Destiny Stivers and Briseida Reyes Miranda—who all attend Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison—chose to begin their day by helping to beautify and clean St. Patrick Cemetery in Madison.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Lydia, a freshman who joined the effort to spruce up the grave sites, spread grass seed around new graves, and sweep the floors and clean the windows of the cemetery chapel.

For Lydia, the morning was a continuation of her dedication to the cemetery since she was a student at nearby Pope John XXIII School.

“When I was younger, I would wait for my two older sisters to get done with school, and I’d go over there and clean a little,” she recalled. “One time, I noticed the grave of a little boy. He was 3 years old when he died. I even showed his grave to my mom.”

That same reverence for the cemetery right across the street from Shawe was shared by Bryan, who said he helps because he knows people who are buried there, including a former Shawe student who died in a one-car accident a few years ago.

“I know some people who are disrespectful to the cemetery, but I just want to help the people there,” said Brian, also a freshman.

The students’ contributions at St. Patrick Cemetery were part of a larger Madison area effort to also beautify St. Anthony Cemetery, St. Joseph Cemetery and St. Magdalene Cemetery, according to Phil Kahn, president of Prince of Peace Catholic Schools in Madison.

“This is a great way for our students to give back to the community,” Kahn said. “It is important for our cemeteries to be kept up in respect to the deceased and the families that go and visit their loved ones who have passed away. And I think it strengthens the faith of our students to see the deceased over there and show their respect to them.”

Bryan and Lydia exude that respect.

“When I’m there, it gives me peace and tranquility,” Bryan said.

Lydia noted, “It makes me feel kind of sad [for the people who have died], but it also makes me feel happy because we were making the cemetery look nicer.” †

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