St. Paul students give back to the community

Nov. 24—NORWALK — Each year dozens of St. Paul High School students descend upon Norwalk and outlying communities to pull together in Flyer solidarity to assist with a variety of projects as a way to give back.

Organizing and planning the day's activities is all done by St. Paul High School senior leaders who reach out to local businesses and non-profits to see if they can use help. The seniors then work alongside the school's ministry team to make and manage a game plan. This year, more than 100 students volunteered for close to 15 organizations: the Norwalk Clothing Bank, Senior Enrichment Services, Light Up Norwalk, Norwalk Arts Center, Habitat ReStore, NC Early Childhood Kindergarten, the S.P. Remembrance Wall, the Norwalk Historical Society, the St. Paul Cemetery, the Shrine of the Sorrowful Mother, Abigail Pregnancy Services, the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, and others.

The official Day of Service is just one day in a life of service as Christian servants and as students at Norwalk Catholic, Campus Minister Sara Fitzgerald said. "We are called to serve not just today, but every day."

Down the street from the school, St. Paul sophomores Grace Kluding and Adele Dowdell, spent their day at the Norwalk Arts Center where they hauled seats taken from the Norwalk Theater balcony, upstairs to a storage room, among other chores. Kludding summed up why their help was valuable, for both themselves and the arts center. "It's really just what we are called on to do. My faith leads me to help those in need."

Dowdell added, "We all really like helping places we go to. They give so much to us, it's our way to say thank you."

Mike Gocsik, principal of St. Paul High School, sent an email to staff early Tuesday that began, "Good morning. Welcome to our Day of Service. I hope we will meet today with an abundance of gratitude, understanding and flexibility as we all go forward outside of our normal routine to serve others."

He reiterated the words of the campus chaplain, "I keep thinking about the statement Mrs. Fitzgerald gave me about our goals for service learning. In part, it states that Christian Service Learning is not only about "what we give" but "who we encounter." It requires us to recognize that we are called to better serve through learning about our neighbors in need, as well as serving our neighbors in need. I hope we carry this sentiment forward in all our activities today and collectively help guide our students to this level of understanding."

Gocsik said he and all of St. Paul's faculty are amazed every day by the kind hearts and generous spirits that their students embody.

Senior David Barcus, who helped string lights and decorate Suhr Family Park for Light Up Norwalk, said that he appreciates getting to plan and participate in the Day of Service because "I get to actually act on what I have been taught as a Catholic. It's not just words, but actions."

And, according to Gocsik, "It's also OK to have fun too."