The Hands and Feet of Christ
This quote by St. Teresa of Avila is the inspiration behind the High School Social Justice Summit, hosted annually by the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) and its 12 high school chaplains. It’s all about inspiring students to take action in the world as the “hands and feet of Christ.” While the third annual summit included some thought-provoking presentations and discussions, it’s also a call to action.
What is social justice? And how can students play a role? Nicole Seneviratne, Teacher Chaplain at St. Francis High School breaks social justice down to its simplest expression. “Social justice is the virtue by which everyone gets their due in society. Imagine a birthday party where 10 children have been invited. All the goods of creation have been baked into a beautiful cake cut into 10 pieces. Two children come along and eat eight pieces, leaving the other children to share two small pieces. That isn’t fair. Social justice means making sure everyone gets a fair and equal share of the cake.”
The 300 participating students had many ideas about how they could help others get a fair and equal share of the cake and many students have already put their ideas into action. For example, at Bishop O’Byrne High School, there is a group of students who regularly meet at 7 a.m. and make sandwiches for the Mustard Seed. The students donate the bread themselves and the sandwiches are made and delivered for lunch that day.
At the summit, the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation (CCEF) presented a $1,000 cheque to these Bishop O’Byrne students as the winners of the Bishop Henry Social Justice Award. These students pitched a plan to purchase a hydroponics unit to grow their own lettuce, tomatoes and herbs to use on their sandwiches. They also plan to run awareness sessions at their school to help students understand the issues of poverty and homelessness in our community.
At All Saints High School, students pitched a “Legendary Kindness” plan to recognize students for random acts of kindness, at St. Mary’s High School, they wanted to provide coffee and donuts to people living and working at The Mustard Seed, at Bishop Carroll, students planned to provide lunches for other students who didn’t have a lunch and at Bishop McNally, students planned to start a youth version of the St. Vincent de Paul Club and take ownership of putting together Christmas hampers. While these were all great initiatives, the Bishop O’Byrne students were ultimately selected because of the sustainability of their idea and the impact of the hydroponics unit, which could be felt at the school for years to come.
St. Gabriel the Archangel student AK says about the event, “It was nice to see other young people coming together who are making a difference.” Cathy Sandau, summit organizer and a Religious Education consultant with the district says, “We hope to continue hosting the summit every year and motivating our students to ultimately change the world.”
Reprinted with permission from the CCSD