Here’s a great idea that Fr. Tom Sweetser, SJ, recently passed along in his newsletter from the Parish Evaluation Project (reprinted with permission).
The St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ has as its mission and purpose, “Empowering students to become men and women for others through faith, service, and justice.” One concrete way of carrying out this mission is a creative project for the 7th and 8th grade students called The Arrupe Project. It was named after Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the General Superior of the Jesuit Order during the tumultuous period following Vatican II. He continually prodded Jesuits and non-Jesuits alike to live their lives for others.
The first step of the project is to have the participating students raise $10 on their own, which is then matched with another $10 by the school, funded through grants. There is a Commissioning Ceremony attended by parents when the students receive their matching grants. From there they go out to use this $20 for seed money to raise a larger sum for others. For the 7th graders, they hand-craft creative products, including homemade note cards, flower arrangements, etc., which they sell at the school-wide Arrupe Marketplace. The 8th graders are given a greater challenge of planning and carrying out an event at which they raise money for others. Both grades use the proceeds from their sales and fundraising to purchase needed commodities for local organizations of their own choosing, such as Catholic Charities, Head Start, Homeless Shelters and other non-profit agencies and groups. It is up to the students to hand deliver their donations to the organization as a way of doing something concrete and practical for others. The final step in the Arrupe Project is to chronicle their own journey in order to reflect on their experience and to state what they learned from it.
Emme East, class of 2015, earned her initial $10 before the Commissioning Ceremony by cooking and serving a home dinner one night. According to her, “The dinner was delicious and it was a great way to begin my Arrupe Project with a base of family values.” She then used her $20, now matched by the school fund, to host an 80’s Jazzercise class in her backyard. She asked an instructor to donate her time to lead the class. The attendees wore 80’s outfits and exercised to classic 80’s music. Emme raised $588 from this event that would go to My Sister’s Place Domestic Violence Shelter in town. She bought toys, coloring books, bibs, pacifiers, etc. that she personally delivered to My Sister’s Place. Afterwards, reflecting on her Arrupe journey she wrote, “I was so excited about the many things I could purchase for the shelter. Beginning with earning $10 from a simple chore, to planning and executing a fundraising event, and then purchasing and delivering items to a local charity, it has been an extremely rewarding experience. It was both humbling and uplifting, two words that describe the Arrupe Project for me.”
Cameron, also from the Class of 2015, wrote, “This was the most influential project I’ve participated in during my years at St. Francis Xavier. Through the Arrupe Project, I was actually able to experience the action of doing justice. What made this project so special for me was all of the different steps I was able to accomplish on my own. This project teaches you so much about being a person for others, just as Pedro Arrupe wanted for us. I learned how good it feels to help people from all different aspects.” Perhaps a similar approach could be used for the upper classes in other Catholic schools, as well as for elementary religious education, high school youth groups, and young adults. However it is implemented, the purpose remains the same, finding a way to do something concrete and practical “for others.”