Accepting the Invitation
Ellen McCormick
By Ellen McCormick
High School Religious Studies Teacher and Service Coordinator
 
April 18, 2019  
 
The Lenten Season is a time of reflection, renewal, and recommitment. These six weeks on the Catholic Liturgical calendar every Spring remind Catholics not only of the redemptive sacrifice offered on the very first Good Friday (and all the life altering events that followed) but also invite members of the Body of Christ each year to commit, once again, to live their lives according to the teachings of Jesus. As a School of the Sacred Heart, as members the Body of Christ, the entire Forest Ridge community receives this invitation. Holy Thursday, the official end of the Lenten Season, provides us the chance to RVSP.  
 
As the Gospel of John attests, on that very first Holy Thursday Jesus gathered his Apostles and washed their feet. Through this humbling act of service Jesus invited his first followers to continue his work in his absence. He instructed them through his example to serve others in love, to treat people gently and compassionately, and to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all people – worth and dignity that knows no titles, power dynamic, or hierarchy. Jesus modeled this and invited his followers then, and now, to do the same. His Apostles RSVPed to his invitation. And they accepted.  
 
The 6 weeks of Lent provided me the chance to reflect on all the ways the Forest Ridge students accept the same Holy Thursday invitation which for us is rearticulated in our Goals and Criteria, particularly Goal 3: “Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action”. Without any doubt, our students are impelled to action. Our vibrant Interact Club has a massive following of students who commit themselves to being volunteers, to respond to the tangible needs of our local community. They sort food together at Northwest Harvest, make sandwiches after school (and sometimes during their collaboration time) to donate to local foodbanks, and support causes like the All in for Autism walk/run; these are only a snapshot of the work they do as a service club.  
 
Interact Club isn’t the only way students live Goal 3. Each student offers a minimum of 20 hours of their time to service each school year. As the May 15 deadline for service hours approaches, I have the joy of seeing all the ways students offer themselves to the community; they volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium, Eastside Baby Corner, Teen Link, Seattle Humane Society, and more. Often their service includes advocacy for communities in need and pair that advocacy with collections, fundraisers, or drives. The student lounges are typically filled with donation bins to collect items for places like Pediatric Interim Care Center and Saint Mary’s Food Bank and each of these projects is initiated and owned by students.  
 
Service is also part of our curriculum. Through our Advisory program, the sophomore class volunteers during collaboration time each spring at local schools and organizations. Upperclasswomen have the option of taking Servant Leadership, a Religious Studies elective that embraces the call to lead like Jesus by volunteering twice a week during their block. Each time I meet the servant leadership class to take attendance and send them, each time I drive sophomores to their service placements, I am reminded that these cocurricular opportunities are only possible because students want to serve. They want to embrace Goal 3. They want to accept the RSVP.  
 
The culmination of Lent also means that the school year is coming to an end. While the time can feel frantic for students and for teachers, I am thankful to have had six weeks to be reminded of all the ways Forest Ridge lives the teachings of Jesus inside and outside of the classroom. I am also thankful to prepare for what’s next; celebrating and recognizing our students for all the ways they accepted the invitation this school year.
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