COLORADO SPRINGS. Being Catholic is more than a religion — it is an identity. At St. Mary’s High School that identity is expressed throughout the school’s community, even in several of the school’s clubs. The mission of two of those clubs — the Students for Life Club and the Youth Philanthropic Club (YPC) — wholly support St. Mary’s Catholic identity, while many of the school’s other clubs express that identity through activities.
The Students for Life Club started in October 2013 with the vision that the club would promote the sanctity of life from conception until natural death by planning and participating in various pro-life activities. Since then, the club has fulfilled that vision by participating in events such as the annual Rocky Mountain March for Life and Mass. On Jan. 27, six students and two adults represented the club at the March for Life 2017 in Washington, D.C., with other members of the Colorado Springs diocese.
The group attended the opening Mass celebrated by Timothy Cardinal Dolan at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday evening. Then on Friday, they marched in the national March for Life and listened to the Silent No More testimonies at the U.S. Supreme Court. While in D.C., the club members also attended the East Coast Students for Life of America Conference as nominees for the Students for Life of America High School Group of the Year Award. Bethany Janzen, Rocky Mountain regional coordinator for Students for Life of America, nominated the St. Mary’s club for the award. While they did not win, the club members said they enjoyed the conference because it allowed them to meet members from many other great student groups.
“We enjoyed an educational, inspiring, and fun day and were excited to have been nominated for the Students for Life of America High School Group of the Year Award after having been selected as the high school group of the year for the Rocky Mountain Region,” said Mary Simmons, parent adviser for Students for Life. “We were all excited to gather and march with others who are praying to change hearts and minds regarding the sanctity of all life. Now more than ever our young people believe that they can make a difference, that they are the ‘pro-life generation,’ and our SMHS Students for Life seek to learn and do all they can to help abolish abortion in our country.”
But the group’s involvement goes beyond activities that protect the unborn to promote other pro-life ideals. Simmons said addressing and understanding right to life issues at the end of the life spectrum, such as the physician assisted suicide proposition which was raised in the November 2016 election, are also an important aspect of the Students for Life mission. The group also works to promote better lives for those in the Colorado Springs community.
“One of our annual pro-life club activities, therefore, is feeding the hungry at the Marian House soup kitchen,” Simmons said. “Our Catholic Christian faith certainly inspires, informs, and is the basis for all of the prolife beliefs and activities of the students in the St. Mary’s High Students for Life Club because we believe that life — from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death — is the most sacred of all God given human rights.”
The Youth Philanthropic Club (YPC) has been a part of the St. Mary’s community for many years. Originally started as part of the the El Pomar Youth in Community Service program, YPC raises funds that are used to fund grants for deserving organizations in the local community. During the last few years, funds raised by the YPC have helped support Children’s Literacy, Fostering Hope, One Nation Walking Together, and Los Pobres. Tena Jelinek, faculty adviser for YPC, said this year the club is supporting Catholic Charities.
“Officers and YPC members continue to tell me that this service and giving back to the community defines who we are as a Catholic high school and as a service club,” Jelinek said.
YPC’s primary means for raising funds is through the club’s annual fall Penny Wars drive. Students are asked to donate during Penny Wars week, with all of the funds going to the organization that YPC has selected.
“Students continue to be enthusiastic participants in this fundraiser — bringing in coins, dollars, even checks to support Penny Wars and the selected agency,” Jelinek said. “We have a healthy and fun competition between classes and even between class periods to earn funds. Student Senate supports our efforts with a point system that earns a jeans day or a day off from school.”
In addition to offering their “treasure,” Jelinek said YPC officers and members also give of their time. Twice a year or so, YPC meets to make meals for the clients of Monument House. YPC has also put together soup kits and comfort bags for local and regional agencies, collaborated with and contributed to the St. Mary’s National Art Honor Society Giving Tree and Easter Basket Drive, and the St. Mary’s National Honor Society’s Book Drive.
“We have a small but enthusiastic core of YPC officers and members who consistently tell me that they appreciate the opportunity to participate in meaningful service work,” Jelinek said.
This semester, YPC is excited to be working also with Father Anthony Bingi and Cathy Kusman, who spoke to St. Mary’s students last fall about the needs of his school and parish in Bulindi, Uganda. St. John Baptist Catholic Parish in Bulindi is the newest parish in the Hoima Diocese. It opened on Dec. 6, 2008, and has approximately 11,000 parishioners. YPC will work to support the primary school associated with the diocese.
“According to Father Bingi, the parish is deeply involved in community, agricultural, and economic development to encourage and assist the parishioners escape rampant abject poverty,” Jelinek said. “We hope to support them with funding and with needed items such as shoes and even colored pencils.”
(Amy G. Partain is communications associate for St. Mary’s High School).