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Diocesan high schools partner with CRS Global High School program

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High school students in the Diocese of Arlington will gain a global perspective in their classes by partnering with Catholic Relief Services Global High School program this semester.

While most are familiar with CRS Rice Bowl, this partnership is designed for secondary schools to include education in Catholic social teaching and to help students become aware of poverty across the globe.

“It teaches them how people live in other cultures, sensitizing them to the situations that people find themselves in, and forming their hearts to encounter and support these people,” said Carla Walsh, diocesan program coordinator for CRS and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

The CRS program is compatible with the work that is going on in the high schools, according to Renee White, assistant superintendent for the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools.

“Schools already are doing a tremendous amount of service work,” White said. “Last year alone, our high schools completed more than 350,000 hours of service. Curriculum that comes with Catholic Relief Services global studies is completely in line with the religion and moral teachings. This is taking what is already happening to the next level.”

Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax is one of the four diocesan high schools participating. They do the Rice Bowl campaign and run a canned food drive each November to help the needy in Fairfax.

"We want to make the students aware of the global issue of hunger, but at the same time it is important for students to recognize there are hunger issues in our own backyard," said Paul VI Principal Tom Opfer. "The program is an extension of the Rice Bowls and is a way to continue to provide an opportunity for students to learn more about global hunger issues," he said. "I feel like CRS gives schools a chance to see what is best for their student body and provides support." 

The high schools will participate at the silver level this year. CRS has silver, gold or platinum participation levels based on requirements, including Rice Bowl and one other core CRS program, which includes advocacy, FoodFast, ethical trade or emergency response programs. CRS provides information and support to the schools.

Participation in this program will help end a disconnect between doing service and knowing who it is helping, Walsh said. “We need to connect it to the scriptural part of our faith and show how it is a basic demand of our faith to help and understand each other.”

Diocesan schools focus on outreach to the community. From collecting candy for the troops, food for the St. Lucy Project, collecting clothing or visiting the elderly, schools serve the community. The CRS program provides a focus for schools engaged in service.

“When you have a goal or direction in mind, it helps you to take advantage of the resources available,” said White.

The schools have participated in the Rice Bowl effort for years, but will notice an increased spiritual engagement around it. “There is going to be a level of thematic consistency that will increase and there are going to be more discussions around the programs,” said Walsh.

White said this program is taking what should be happening at Lent — prayers, fasting and almsgiving — and bringing them to the school daily.

Walsh said they are not just an end in themselves. “They are about connecting us with each other,” she said. “It connects us with the suffering in our world. These practices of Lent are intentionally building the body of Christ.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018