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Called to be Heroes

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On a sunny, breezy November morning, as the leaves floated from the trees, the children at St. Bernadette School in Amelia were told they are called to be heroes.

“Living good, holy lives of service is heroic,” said Father Tim Ralston at their weekly all-school Mass. The message delivered from the altar is one way Catholic education reaches students and develops them spiritually and morally.

“A Catholic education is very important to me because I can understand more about God and Jesus more than I would in a public school,” said seventh grader Zach Eldridge. “They give details about what Jesus did for us.”

Last year, Father Ralston saw some of the 195 students every day when he monitored the older students’ flex time periods at this Pierce Township school in Clermont County.

“We needed to have more spacing out of students in classes for Covid,” said Father Ralston. “So rather than hiring someone to do all that, especially with lower Mass attendance and collections being down, I didn’t want to spend money on anything like that so I decided I could make the time in my own schedule to help out.”

It became a bonus religion lesson as Father Ralston talked with the kids in a more laid-back environment. Sometimes he discussed a particular saint’s feast day or slipped in another message about the Church.

“Because I was going to be in the classroom each day I went and got my substitute license from the state of Ohio,” he said.

While this year Father Ralston returned to his normal schedule, he still sees kids on the playground and attends their sporting events on campus, getting to know the families and even filling in at the concession stand.

Megan Mattei, who also brings faith to her student’s lives, is the sixth grade religion teacher. She gathers her class each Friday for their “Classroom Community” lesson when students share prayer intentions.

“I feel like as we teach religion, we’re teaching the whole child,” said Mattei. “We want to make sure that when they leave St. B that they care for others, care for God’s creation, and [are] able to have that community spirit so they can move out and be that light in the community.”

“Now the class is focusing on Catholic Social Teaching and our call to holiness and how we can set the world on fire,” Mattei said.

Students learn about charity and helping others through holding canned food drives. Last spring they accepted nearby St. Veronica’s cereal box collection challenge. To motivate the students, Mattei and other teachers promised to eat a cicada if the kids met their goal. They exceeded it. Much to the kids’ delight, Mattei kept her promise and offered an extra cicada to Father Ralston.

“The teachers put chocolate sauce on it,” said Father Ralston. “I ate mine as is.”

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