An education at Catholic Memorial requires understanding the value of service. Sure, it would be easy for a student to look at volunteering and dismiss it as nothing more than something they are told to do, but at a school that prides itself on creating students of exceptional character, that is not the case.
So what is the idea of service according to a CM student?
From the start of the academic year when a bus full of boys arrives at a local food pantry to the spring when members of the school community fly to South America to help an impoverished village, volunteerism and service never take a break. In all, the volunteering activities the boys take on have one thing in common: it’s for the benefit of someone in need.
Locally, service can take the form of a visit to a food pantry. Since 2017, the sight of CM boys moving boxes and organizing donations at Rose’s Bounty at the Stratford Street United Church has been a common show of service in CM's own backyard.
The relationship between the pantry and the school began in the organization’s infancy and Darra Slagle, the executive director of Rose’s Bounty, required assistance. CM boys, willing to commit service hours, were more than happy to unload the monthly deliveries that the pantry received.
Today, the operation is larger and more complex. The truck is much larger and the deliveries more substantive, as Rose’s Bounty now on average distributes about 15,000 pounds of food per week.
What started as boys running to the truck and back has developed into a more sophisticated operation. When the delivery arrives at the front door of the church, the boys set up a roller from the truck to the staircase at the entrance, followed by a second roller down the steps to the basement. Once a box makes its way to the basement, it is placed on a runner and is taken to the storage area to be organized.
An afternoon at Rose’s Bounty is more than putting chicken in a freezer or a cereal box on the right shelf. It’s a mission in making sure that the church’s members and neighbors get the assistance that they need. In this case, it is homebound seniors and veterans who rely on this food pantry and the work of CM to make sure the right deliveries get to the people who need them.
Back on campus, service morphs into many other forms. It may be a small gesture like contributing to the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk and fundraiser, donating to the Christmas toy drive so an underprivileged child can have a gift under their Christmas Tree, or contributing a lightly used jacket to the winter coat drive, allowing a child to stay warm during the winter. There are also larger forms of on-campus service, such as the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive for St. Patrick’s Parish in Roxbury. The Monday before Thanksgiving, Kennedy Commons becomes a hive of activity, with some students making Thanksgiving cards and organizing donation into stations, so others can go station to station with a box to fill with items to make a Thanksgiving dinner.
For the boys in Kennedy Commons, there is pride in the idea that they can improve the quality of someone’s holiday.
Throughout the year, CM helps those in its neighborhood. But what happens when students travel abroad? Thanks to programs like Blessed Edmund Rice Service Initiative (BERSI), students can volunteer to spend a week helping build homes in a poor and marginalized community.
The trip not only helps those in need but can lead to a transformative experience for the boys who choose to travel. Kevin Durazo, the vice principal of mission integration, recalled taking boys on the 2019 trip to Peru where boys who never slept without air conditioning had to live in a neighborhood where a single mother is lucky to bring home $2 a day. This led to an experience where the boys also gained a greater appreciation for what they have back at home.
Acts of service can also transcend distance. For example, time spent helping those in need at a local non-profit. According to Campus Ministry Director Michael Dermody ‘07, more underclassmen are taking
part in service than in past years, when it was traditionally seniors. Part of that is due to the fact that the Campus Ministry office is more accessible than in years past. It currently sits in the heart of the school, adjacent to the entrance, and across from the chapel linking the older part of the school with the Yawkey Center for Integrated and Applied Learning. Here, it allows for more engagement with students. It also comes down to the fact that obtaining a CM education is to understand that being a man for others provides a student with purpose beyond themselves. The American Trappist monk, Thomas Merton wrote, “…if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be ‘as gods’. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives.”