St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, "It's not about how much you do, but how much love you put into what you do that counts." At Notre Dame Academy in South Buffalo, this notion is put into practice daily. Recently a small, love-filled gesture of kindness inspired an exciting new school ministry. One of Notre Dame Academy's Second-grade teachers, Lindsey Carrion created a Christmas card project for her class that has now enveloped the whole school.
Instead of playing host to the popular Elf on the Shelf this past December, Carrion found a Kindness Elf on Pinterest. Carrion explained. "Every day the elf shows up in the classroom with an instructional card, like smile at someone today, let someone go in front of you or hold the door open."
One suggestion our elf had was "Make a card for someone who is sick." Carrion contacted nearby South Buffalo Mercy Hospital to see if a card project would be acceptable. Carrion's second-grade parents donated Christmas cards, and her students wrote short notes inside, such as "I hope you're feeling better" and "I hope this card brightens your day."
"I had my students create Christmas cards for morning work and explained I would be dropping them off at the hospital over the Christmas break," Carrion said. A Head Nurse at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital sent Carrion's second-grade a photo of herself with the cards, just before they were distributed to the patients.
"When I showed my students the picture of the nurse at Mercy Hospital with our cards, they were shocked," Carrion continued. "They couldn't believe their cards actually went to the hospital and did bring a smile to someone's face!"
The card ministry ties into several aspects of the students' educational experience. They focus on the art on the front of the card. They practice handwriting and letter writing inside. They even learn of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by communicating with the sick and comforting the afflicted.
Gianna, a fourth-grader at Notre Dame Academy, enjoys making the cards because she realizes that the patients are scared and need prayers. "We make people at Mercy Hospital feel that we care about them," she said. "Whenever they get our cards, they feel happier."
"This project is very fun because the people in the hospital know we care about them," added Casimir, Gianna's second-grade brother.
Notre Dame Academy's card ministry was created and carried out pre-coronavirus. The world has changed in the last few months. Phrases like social distancing, quarantine, and distance learning are now part of everyone's vocabulary. Things in the world have truly changed. But the heart and compassion of students at Notre Dame Academy has not, they have shifted, but not changed.
As the students at Notre Dame Academy continue to learn remotely and have Zoom Mass and lessons with their teachers, the card ministry continues. "When we began distance learning, the teachers quickly asked their students to create cards, either digitally or by hand and then take a picture and send them to our Good News email (firstname.lastname@example.org)," explains De-Angelis-Stein. "These cards are Thank-you's and Well-wishes to the Doctors, nurses and tireless hospital staff at South Buffalo Mercy Hospital who are now on the front-line taking care of us. And they have been very well received by our neighbors at the hospital."
"This is a very relatable ministry and one that will continue at Notre Dame Academy," added Paula DeAngelis-Stein, Advancement/Marketing director for Notre Dame Academy. "Sometimes, as Catholics, I think we try to get too heady with children. But this ministry is tactile and relatable. We all have grandparents. We all know grandparents get sick. We know our school is down the road from South Buffalo Mercy Hospital. Our students know how important it is to be kind and to try to make someone smile. This ministry, which involves all 500 of our students, makes total sense., and will continue."
"It's so important that our future generation understands compassion and caring for others, especially those suffering in the hospital, and especially now with what we are all facing in our world" commented Tristan D'Angelo, principal of Notre Dame Academy. "Our teachers do an outstanding job teaching lessons and virtues, but as we know, it is more powerful when a student can take ownership of these values and truly feel in their heart they can put a smile on someone's face."