Ascension Catholic School students and staff recently went into action after hearing Catholic schools in Texas needed help after Hurricane Harvey.
In Harvey's path was St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School in Port Arthur, Texas, a small pre-K to eighth-grade school with approximately 180 students.
"When our Ascension Catholic faculty began to search for a place to help, we knew we wanted to be able to make a difference," Ascension Catholic librarian Yvonne Andrepont said in a news release. "We saw many schools completely destroyed and families fleeing the area … we knew that we could not make a dent in that situation. As we examined schools from Corpus Christi to Louisiana, knowing we could find the right fit if we just kept looking, St. Catherine’s caught our eye."
After reading the Texas school's motto, “Changing the world, one good deed at a time,” the Donaldsonville school decided to lend a hand.
"This was the place our small deed could make a difference," she said.
After making contact with the Texas school, Ascension Catholic school leaders sent out a letter to its school families announcing plans to help the Texas school.
Last year, the Donaldsonville Catholic school had been spared, "but we saw the devastation of flooding all around us," she said.
"Our students had reached out and helped then, too, mostly through physical labor," she said. "This would be different."
Students donated supplies and began packing book bags. Former principal Janice Burns took some of the donated money and went shopping.
The Rev. Paul Yi, the school's pastor, contacted upon hearing which school was chosen, realized he had a connection with the St. Catherine's. The school's pastor, the Rev. Rodel Faller, had been Yi's classmate in the seminary. Yi organized a drive at St. Francis and Ascension of Our Lord churches for gift cards. He turned those over to the school to include in its gift to St. Catherine’s.
With the 182 book bags packed with school supplies and donations of money and gift cards from the school family and churches, totaling approximately $4,500, project organizers were ready to deliver.
On a recent September Saturday morning, 14 students arrived on campus at 6 a.m. to prepare the donated supplies for the 12-hour trip.
"Meeting Haidee Todora, principal, and Marcia Stevens, Beaumont’s Diocesan superintendent, we found an instant connection," Andrepont said in the release.
The group also met Faller.
"We were able to get the bags, books and extra supplies to the gym through an assembly line, and then we took a tour of the school," she said.
While the Texas school building still stands and has been disinfected and abated, there is still much to be done.
Andrepont said the gift cards and cash donations will go a long way to help the Texas Catholic school accomplish its recovery goal.
Todora told the Ascension Catholic delegation she was inspired by the students, and while others may have given more, she said she was touched that the Donaldsonville students had given up their Saturday for people they had never met, to help with no thought of reward, and to do it all with an exuberance for life and the true meaning of giving and service.
The program helped the students experience the school's mission, which states, “Ascension Catholic educates and develops the mind, body, and spirit of each student to know, love, and serve God, self, and others in a safe and caring environment.”
"These students felt a satisfaction and pride in what they had done," according to the release.