One Catholic elementary school student harvests vegetables for the hungry. Another helps prepare her church for Mass. A third student gets up early to serve at daily Mass before school starts, while another prays to God for His protection and mercy.
All say they are excited about their faith as they try to learn, love and live Jesus in the classroom, at home and in their parishes.
Justin Peoples is a busy young man. Every summer he weeds the garden at Saint John Neumann Parish in Franklin Park, and brings vegetables to the Little Sisters of the Poor who feed those in need. The seventh grade student at Blessed Francis Seelos Academy in Wexford is an altar server, plays the trumpet during school Masses at Saint Aidan Parish, and volunteers at fish fries and festivals.
Justin also attends his parish middle school faith enrichment program, called Ignite. Kids discuss ways to stay active in the faith and grow closer to God, study the Bible and go to adoration.
“One hundred years from now, people won’t care if I played a certain sport,” said Justin, who happens to be a cross-country champion. “I’m trying to do things that help me get to heaven one day.”
Abby Opferman helps her father Dan, who is the sacristan at Saint Angela Merici Church, part of Mary, Mother of God Parish. They prepare the church for Mass, including funerals and special liturgies. The seventh grader at Mary of Nazareth School in White Oak also has been an altar server for three years, and helps to train new servers.
“I wanted to be involved in the Mass,” she said.
Abby has an active prayer life. “I try to pray every night before going to bed, thanking God for the day he’s given me, and in the morning for the day ahead,” she said. Her family of eight also prays the Rosary together in May as a devotion to Mary.
Luke Jesso, an eighth grade student at Ave Maria Academy’s Mt. Lebanon campus, has been an altar server once a week for the last two years, serving 7 a.m. Mass at Saint Bernard Church, part of Saint Michael the Archangel Parish.
“God gives me everything, and I think that I should thank him for everything,” Luke said. “Serving at Mass, I see how beautiful the Mass really is. It helps me grow closer to God.”
Luke also works the parish fish fry at Our Lady of Grace Church, running food out to cars this Lent. All tips are donated to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. “Father gave a homily about how gifted we are, and that inspired everyone to give back to people who are in need,” he said.
Emaya Green, one of seven children in her family who attend Mass at Saint Bede Church in Point Breeze, is learning about the faith as a fifth grade student at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy in Wilkinsburg. She wants to be an altar server like her big sister Maurisa. The pandemic interrupted those plans but she hopes to be trained this year.
Emaya has been learning about the Bible in school and God’s mercy. She prays regularly.
“Sometimes I pray for my family and people who are sick,” she said. “I know he hears my prayers, and God will always protect me and forgive me.”