When I was a young man in high school, the idea of service and helping others started being an important part of my life. Why did this idea begin to develop in my life? Where did this idea come from? Who made this idea so important to me? Reflecting upon these questions, I know where and how it all began.
I went from a school that had about 25 students in my 8th grade class to a school where there was around 375 students in my grade. The school had nearly 1400 students total. The size of the campus was HUGE compared to my grade school. I didn’t know where I belonged or what to do. I knew I had to find where I belonged in this new environment. I became involved in theatre and this new thing that really changed it all for me…service.
The Theology Department at Saint Ignatius High School is unlike any other department that I have ever encountered. The teachers in the department don’t just teach their subject, but they also model it! There are 3 teachers that really stood out to me…Mr. Brennan, Mr. Healey, and Mr. Skerl.
Mr. Brennan quickly connected with me. He is one of the most sincere men that I have ever met, but he also knows how to motivate and push you to be your best. He was always looking at his students and knowing what they needed to hear. He would remind me of opportunities to help others. He showed me chances to go out and help others. This idea was not something I thought of before, but I did begin to think about it because I trusted Mr. Brennan.
Mr. Healey was my freshmen year theology teacher. He is a person that I model my teaching style after. He shows passion about his subject but also passion for his students. He lives his subject and was constantly reminding students that serving others is a great way to serve Christ, and that idea has stayed with me.
Mr. Skerl was one of the greatest men that I have ever known. He served others until his last day on this earth…and I still believe he is serving us today. He modeled the idea of servant leadership to the fullest and was the greatest example of leading by example. If you had to do a research project on service in Catholic schools, Mr. James Skerl would need to be a part of the project. This man created the St. Benedict Joseph Labre Homeless Ministry program (every Sunday of the year, students and adults go out and serve the homeless of Cleveland a meal and companionship), Dinner with L’Arche (a monthly dinner with residents of L’Arche Cleveland), he would attend every sporting event he could for students, and he also developed the St. Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry at the school (students attend the funeral for someone that does not have family or friends to act as pallbearers).
If anyone led a life truly guided by the Corporal Works of Mercy, Mr. Skerl was that person. He not only showed how the Corporal Works of Mercy should be lived, but he encouraged and drew students in to live that same life with him. He would never force a student to serve, but he knew what to do to get a student to be there with him. He served others without question. He served others because he saw Christ in those that he served.
These 3 teachers are the reason I serve. Without Catholic education, my passion for serving others would most likely not be where it is today. As a teacher, I need to model the importance of serving others, I need to live a life of service to others. Students need to see that serving others is what makes us see Christ even more in every person we encounter.
One of my favorite phrases is this “We don’t serve others because they’re Catholic, we serve others because we’re Catholic!”
Service is a part of our faith. Service is how we show we see Christ. Service is showing our love for Christ! Become that inspiration in a student to help them begin to serve others!