Catholic schools team up to fight hunger

TEAMING UP AGAINST HUNGER — Students from the Weirton area Catholic schools work to fight against local hunger. Representing their schools are, from left, Ben Jasko and Emily Edmiston, of St. Paul School; Austin Macek and Julia Dennis, of Madonna High School; and Bella Spickard and Niko Bine, of St. Joseph the Worker School. The Weirton area Catholic schools are currently collecting nonperishable items for the Community Bread Basket. -- Contributed

WEIRTON — Students and staff of Catholic Schools in the Northern Panhandle are taking in the spirit of the season and finding ways to give to others.

“Our students in Weirton and Wheeling area Catholic schools are fueled by solidarity, so we are asking ourselves, ‘What is it like to walk in the shoes of these people facing hard times,” said Rev. Dennis Schuelkens Jr., pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Weirton. “Subsidiarity comes into play as we take the thought a step further, accepting responsibility and asking, ‘What can we do?'”

As part of those efforts, students and staff have been working to collect and donate food, and in some cases assist with meals served to those in need, throughout the school year.

“Every human life is sacred,” Schuelkens said. “We recognize every person as a child of God.”

Students and staff from Weirton Catholic schools — Weirton Madonna High School, St. Joseph the Worker School and St. Paul School — currently are collecting non-perishable food items to be donated to the Community Bread Basket.

“Beyond providing literally thousands and thousands of pounds of food each year, I can’t begin to express how priceless it is to have the man hours these special volunteers give us,” Community Bread Basket Program Administrator Tara Sheperd said. “Our staff and clients are very impressed when they see the students here working. In turn, these students have an eye-opening experience and realize how much they are truly helping a struggling family.”

The Wheeling area Catholic schools help at Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center on 18th Street Wheeling.

“It is so crucial to initiate the importance of empathy — Catholic Social Teaching at a young age,” said Beth Collins, northern regional director for Catholic Charities. “It is much easier for a child at a very young age to learn empathy and gain an understanding of dignity than it is an adult. When you teach a child the importance of caring for others and putting others first it becomes second nature.”

Collins oversees all Catholic Charities’ offices in Weirton, Wheeling, New Martinsville and Morgantown. Her organization provides an array of services that include basic needs assistance and help to families and individuals to help them get into a better situation.