A group of two dozen Catholic high school students joined Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Monday, January 18, in preparing a luncheon meal for more than 300 homeless and working poor in Raleigh. The service day took place on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the late civil rights leader.
The students were members of the Diocese of Raleigh African American Ancestry Ministry (AAMEN) and Evangelization youth group and students from Cardinal Gibbons High School (CGHS) in Raleigh. They and Bishop Burbidge prepared, cooked and served meals at the Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen, operated by the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. The meal included soup, a meat entrée, sandwiches, vegetables, salad, and a variety of desserts and beverages.
Diocesan AAMEN Director Lauren Green noted how the King Holiday is evolving into a day of service and that the opportunity to serve the poor provided the students with an opportunity to see up-close the poverty that exists in our community.
“I live in North Raleigh,” said Patrick Darrow, a senior at Cardinal Gibbons. “You don’t see this very much. I’m surprised at the number of children who come in with their parents for the lunch. It makes you appreciate what you have.”
Nichelle Edwards, a parishioner of St. Joseph Catholic Church and student at St. Thomas More Academy, said she is aware there are a lot of people who are hurting. “This is a way to show you care,” she said. She said being a member of the AAMEN youth ministry is affording her the opportunity to become involved in the community in service projects, such as this. She said, “We learn about it at school, but this is a true learning experience.”
Bishop Burbidge agreed. “This is a wonderful way for our young people to honor Martin Luther King, Junior, a man who devoted his whole life to preach the Lord’s message that we are all brothers and sisters,” the Bishop said.
“These young people have a great privilege, and it is truly a privilege, to welcome the luncheon guests and to look at them in the eyes, understanding that we are all members of God’s family,” Bishop Burbidge added.
In offering a prayer before the doors opened, Bishop Burbidge said, “Almighty God, we ask you to bless all who come through these doors today and bless all those who are seeing your face. May they see it here today in our love and compassion.”
For 15 years, Catholic students have been preparing the Monday lunch at the soup kitchen, 52 weeks a year. The volunteer effort was started by Ms. Agnes Penny, Director of Outreach at Cardinal Gibbons. “Martin Luther King said, not only should we march for change, but we should be of service to the community,” she said. “This is about serving those in need.”
Ms. Penny recalled one day when students noticed one of the guests was wearing a CGHS athletic letterman’s jacket. They asked him where he got it, and he told them that he was a graduate of Cardinal Gibbons who had gotten caught up in hard drugs and fell on hard times. He said if the school had a program like this when he was a student, it may have helped him avoid the pitfalls he encountered in life. Ms. Penny said his story had an impact on the students.
Ms. Penny explained that every student at CGHS is required to undertake community service as part of the school’s mission statement. Each Monday 14 members of the sophomore class prepare and serve the meal at Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen and then go on to Interfaith Food to prepare “backpack buddies” to be given to children on Friday afternoon, who are in the care of relatives other than their parents. She explained that the packs include food for the weekend to make sure the children have sufficient food until Monday.
On Tuesdays, CGHS juniors help out at various assisted living and Alzheimer’s homes. Wednesday is freshman day, with students taking turns visiting low income day care centers and mentoring with students. And Thursday is senior day with students assisting Habitat for Humanity in building and tearing down homes.
“Every student at Cardinal Gibbons is taught to be of faith, service and a leader in the community,” Ms. Penny said.
Bishop Burbidge added, “Martin Luther King, Junior would be so proud of the young people who are here today.”