Stewardship on school's curriculum

  • September 18, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Grade 12 religion students at Neil McNeil Catholic High School will get a taste of stewardship this year with a curriculum designed to get them outside the classroom.

Instead of sticking to the usual textbook curriculum, teacher Linton Soares has started following the “ShareLife ” curriculum, something he developed with the help of ShareLife and the Office of Stewardship of the Toronto archdiocese , to make learning more hands-on through guest presentations and field trips to different centres with service opportunities. ShareLife is the charitable fund-raising arm of the archdiocese.
“In the high schools in general, there is difficulty engaging students in religion class,” Soares said. “We believe if they go out, they feel more connected.”

A connection to their community is important, Soares said, for students to better understand the faith concepts and values they are learning and to better understand how to put faith into practice.

“There is no incentive to do something in the community and for them to develop their own spiritual life,” he said of the original curriculum. “We’re trying to empower them, give them leadership roles, for them to find out who they are.”

The trial semester will keep many elements in the original curriculum but modify it so that for one week every month there will be a special focus on stewardship. The students will welcome a guest speaker once a month and make a field trip to see the spirit of service in practice.

During the last week of every month, students will participate in Street Patrol, a program that gets volunteers out into the city streets to hand out food to the homeless.

Trips this year will include a visit to the Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors, a place for continuing care and independent living for the elderly, the Daily Bread Food Bank, St. Augustine’s Seminary, and Good Shepherd Centre, a place where the homeless, those in crisis or those suffering from substance abuse can find shelter, food and other help.

The stewardship curriculum will present a different aspect each month: the Christian person, where students will explore who they are as a person and the different stages in faith, life and development; the Christian mission, where students learn about Catholic social teaching, liberation theology in the Third World and discrimination; Christian morality where they learn about moral living and the process “STOP,” which stands for search, think, learn, others and prayer; and the Christian community, with a focus on the stresses of life and building community with the sacraments in mind.

In January, Neil McNeil will have a commissioning ceremony  for students. They will be encouraged to give feedback so that Soares can determine whether or not he should offer the modified curriculum to classes in the new year.

Through the stewardship program, Soares said he hopes to impress upon students “that God is very important and being a moral person is very important.”

This month, students were asked to create a mission statement of who they are as Catholics; they created a “Catholic resume” of good things they are doing in their lives; they learned about communication and the obstacles to a good relationship with God and others. They also learned about their “time, treasures and talents.”

Tim Lee Loy, schools and employee campaigns co-ordinator at ShareLife, helped Soares develop the stewardship curriculum by linking him with community organizations and speakers. He said it was a matter of creating opportunities for the young men at Neil McNeil.

“We hope they would learn to care about people, live in faith and act with charity,” Lee Loy said. “It’s an attitude of giving of themselves, of their time, talents and treasures.”

By going out into the community, they would better learn about people around them who are less fortunate and create an attitude of self-giving.

Share Life works with schools across the Catholic school board to help students learn more about stewardship.

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