SALEM - To whom much is given, much is expected - that's the St. Luke credo students at St. Paul School embraced when they collected school supplies to give to the less fortunate in Haiti.
"I think they learned that life is precious no matter where you live, but how important it is to share because we have so much," St. Paul School Principal Rebecca Carey said.
She explained they try to get students to understand that idea, of giving to others who don't have as much.
Sixth graders at St. Paul School in Salem display the school supplies they gathered to donate to children in Haiti, presenting them Wednesday to Fr. Leveque Bien-Aime to take back with him to Mirebalais in the Central Plateau where there was a cholera outbreak last year. Pictured with the students, standing from left, are their teacher Jo Ann Barto, who is an associate of the Sisters of Humility of Mary, Principal Rebecca Carey, Fr. Bien-Aime and Sister Delrina Clarin, H.M., of Akron, who has been friends with Fr. Bien-Aime for 20 years. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
The students hosted Fr. Leveque Bien-Aime of Haiti and Sister Delrina Clarin, H.M. of Akron during a prayer service at the school Wednesday, presenting the priest with several boxes of school supplies and a St. Paul School ball cap to remember his visit when he returns to Mirebalais in the Central Plateau of Haiti, an area struck by a cholera outbreak last year.
Mirebalais is located just north of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.
Sixth grade teacher Jo Ann Barto, who is also an associate of the Sisters of Humility of Mary, knew Sister Delrina Clarin, H.M., who lives in Akron and has been friends with Fr. Bien-Aime for 20 years.
Fr. Bien-Aime was coming for a visit to Assumption Parish in Broadview Heights, which has a sister parish in Haiti, so a visit to St. Paul School was also arranged.
Ironically, St. Paul School student Mackenzie Jeric-Carroll used to attend Assumption Parish.
"I have found in dealing with people that God puts you in certain spots at certain times to make connections," Sister Clarin said.
Barto said the sixth graders started collecting the supplies in August and the collection was opened up to the whole school and St. Paul Church, under the direction of Barto and her sixth grade students, who also organized the prayer service and school supplies presentation.
She said the project for the students was an example of "putting faith into action, doing good works."
The students learned about Haiti, but the lesson was focused more on the spiritual aspect rather than social studies. She explained that Fr. Bien-Aime sees education as a means to improving the country.
"That is their hope," she said.
During the service, Barto had 10 students come up and stand at the front to represent students in Haiti and had some of then sit while she gave several statistics about life for children in Haiti. According to her presentation: two out of 10 have an opportunity to go to school; five out of 10 have safe water to drink; four out of 10 can read or write; four out of 10 get three meals a day; and four out of 10 have access to health care. She said girls on average only get two years of schooling and there is one hospital bed available for every 10,000 Haitians. The average life expectancy in the country is 51 years of age.
Students in all grades attended the service and had the opportunity to ask questions of Fr. Bien-Aime, asking about everything from what church is like there to what the weather is like and what sports they participate in.
"I am very impressed by their generosity and they are very kind," Fr. Bien-Aime said about the students, adding that learning how to share with the poor is a sign of a good Christian education. "Their hearts are there during the Liturgy."
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org