The faith service community at St. Joe's

Sat, Sep 24th 2016 08:00 am
Faith Service Community traveled to the Romero Center in Camden, N.J., as part of the immersion experience.
Faith Service Community traveled to the Romero Center in Camden, N.J., as part of the immersion experience.

KENMORE — In the fall of 2015, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute launched Faith Service Community, a formalized service learning society. This summer, members of the group traveled out of state to the Romero Center in Camden, N.J., one of St. Joe's annual cultural immersion experiences. The students participated in the Urban Challenge Program, a service-learning experience rooted in the Catholic faith tradition.

FSC members were armed with the harsh facts surrounding urban poverty, deepening the experience for some of the young men. The program is led by Chris Panepinto '02, the school's former religion teacher and newly appointed Campus Minister. An outgrowth of St. Joe's Lasallian heritage, the mission of FSC is to touch hearts and transform minds of students through Catholic social teaching.

Organizing service trips locally and out of state, Panepinto saw a valuable opportunity to provide students with a deeper understanding of the issues impacting the communities in which they were immersed. Students often encounter overwhelming realities during their service experiences, and the work done in FSC provides the facts students need to discuss, understand, and prepare for the emotions accompanying these real life experiences.

Last year, the first year of FSC was a success. In addition to the monthly service activities, students from all grades attended monthly meetings and participated in an active online learning community. The in-person and online discussions centered around topics such as the dynamics and realities of poverty, the truth behind stereotypes, and how Gospel values can guide a student's everyday life.

When school begins, interested freshmen will be welcomed into FSC. Panepinto, in his new role as campus minister at St. Joe's, will continue to lead the group by listening with his heart, encouraging commitment to service, and nurturing each individual's faith. The program is partially funded through an endowment set up by alumnus Robert Ivory '47, who dedicated his life to service and leadership within the St. Joe's community and other organizations throughout Western New York.

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