Linda Oppelt

Community service is a key component of St. Mary’s High School

By Raquel Krasovec

COLORADO SPRINGS. “Faith, Knowledge, Community.” These are the pillars upon which St. Mary’s High School places its Catholic identity, its academic rigor, and everything else that defines the excellence of a 137-year-old Catholic school.

Most people have an immediate grasp of what strong faith and knowledge pillars look like.  Defining “community” effectiveness is often a little murkier. Dean of Students, Dennis Archuleta, gave a clear and simple answer to defining the Community pillar. “Being a St. Mary’s Pirate means we serve and honor our Lord by serving those around us, we have an obligation to do that, and actions speak louder than words.”

On Sept. 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Mary’s sent groups of students to Care and Share, Monument Valley Park, and to two of its partner schools, Divine Redeemer and St. Paul, to spend the day growing in faith by investing some “sweat equity” into the community.

Principal Robyn Cross pointed out that all students are required to complete 150 community service hours during their time as St. Mary’s Pirates, but service means much more than just fulfilling a graduation requirement.

“Our community service is all about giving back,” Cross said. Through acts of service, we are practicing servant leadership and compassion, which are at the heart of who we are as a Catholic school.”

Students in the school are organized into four “houses,” and each house is comprised of students from all four grades.  The houses are named after impactful figures in the history of St. Mary’s High School: Msgr. William Kelly, Father Rawley Myers, Sister Columba Gallavan, and the Sisters of Loretto. House System Director Mike Kloenne emphasized the need to teach our students the importance of an active faith.

“The key point about community service day is making our faith expeditionary, taking it outside of our school walls and sharing our love and faith with the community.”

Tony Clavenna, the Dean of the Loretto House, shared why the students he mentors chose a partner school as the focus of their service. “The students in our house chose Divine Redeemer as the focus of their service day. Many of them are DR graduates and they wanted to give back to a school that had such a great impact on them.”

Perhaps the best testimonials came from the students themselves, and senior Dominic Stahoviac captured the true spirit of the community service day.

“Community service helps students like me understand how hospitality can benefit people in need, and further nurture faith in God and goodwill toward others,” Stahoviac said.

Senior Casey White added that the simple act of packaging boxes of food at Care and Share “inspired me to want to do more to help out both homeless people, but also those in need in the Catholic community.”

The St. Leo Chapel at St. Mary’s, named in honor of St. Leo the Great, pope and Doctor of the Church, bears a unique witness to the importance of service.

Fifteen centuries ago, St. Leo said, “Seek in the secret recesses of your conscience the mother of all virtues: charity,” and, more bluntly “Those who are not good to others are bad to themselves.”

Fifteen centuries after the patron of the St. Mary’s chapel said those powerful words, the St. Mary’s students, through simple acts of service, choose to live out the words of Jesus in John 13:35, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

(Raquel Krasovec is the Director of Enrollment for St. Mary’s High School)

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