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Mother Teresa inspires namesake school

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Liberty Township students embrace service for all grades, all year

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

Students at Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School (MTCES) in Liberty Township have an incredible model of faith, compassion and service to those in need in their patron saint. 

In November, Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio recognized their efforts to follow her example, honoring MTCES as a Champion of Mercy. The annual award is presented to groups and individuals who bring hope and love to their neighbors at the periphery. 

Sister of the Precious Blood Anne Schulz, principal; Angie McGraw, advancement director; and Nicole Balster, director of marketing and events, represented the school at the Champions of Mercy awards dinner. 

Ellen Paxton, a volunteer for both Catholic Charities and MTCES, nominated the school for the award. MTCES was “founded on the principles of volunteerism 20 years ago,” she said. “It is part of the fabric of our school… to help our school and students grow, but to also help those around us succeed. 

“St. Teresa’s life influences the respect the students have for each other and their awareness of others, especially those in need, both physically and spiritually.

“Service to others and giving is so much a part of the MTCES culture, that many times it goes unnoticed,” Paxton added. “Many of the families at MTCES (mine included) are privileged, and we are also serious about sharing our gifts with others.”

At MTCES, student community service projects span the entire school year  and include hosting a monthly food drive for Reach-Out-Lakota and St. Raphael food pantries. 

Every October, the fifth graders collect socks for the homeless, and all students donate baby items for Right to Life Groups. The junior high students are quick up give up their own holiday gatherings to bring joy and hold a party for at inner-city Fairwood Elementary School in Hamilton. Students also invite residents of the Hawthorn Glen Retirement Community to be their guests at the school’s Thanksgiving meal, serving them and breaking bread together, along with sharing gifts with the seniors at Christmas and Easter. 

Last year, eighth-grade leaders hosted Lenten prayer for the Rice Bowl Project, introducing the student body to the needs of their neighbors in other countries.They also bring in food of the country they are presenting on, so that students can sample it during lunch on each Friday during Lent.

This fall, the school community turned its outreach focus to hurricane victims. MTCS directed proceeds from its used uniform sale and a student collection to Catholic Charities, the American Red Cross, and Kilazo Kizuri (an international organization founded by MTCES parent and board of trustees member Michelle Kiigi that is dedicated to reducing the high infant mortality rate in developing countries). 

After the Hurricane Harvey, Kilazo Kizuri directed its usual overseas efforts to an area closer to home when, Kiigi and her family, including her daughters — MTCS fourth grader Njeri and second grader Nungari — traveled to Houston to partner with West Houston Assistance Ministries providing supplies to families affected by the disaster.

“We believe we are all called to model the example of Mother Teresa through volunteerism and community service,” Sister Anne said. “Our students truly take it upon themselves to help those less fortunate.” 

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