Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Cataldo students have regular opportunities to serve others’ needs

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Nov. 12, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Students from Cataldo School, Spokane, present some Halloween cheer to the Sisters at the Convent of the Holy Names. Pictured from left, holding jack o’lanterns, are Joe Gottsch, Dylan Sullivan, Sophie Anton, and Mackenzie Simpson. (IR photo courtesy of Cataldo School)

Virtually all of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Spokane include service programs which give students regular opportunities to serve the needs of others. One noteworthy example is Spokane’s Cataldo School Since 1996, the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at Cataldo, along with parent volunteers, have made the school’s Community Service Program a continuing success story.

For the past six years, two Cataldo parents, Loreen McFaul and Sue Gosline, have organized and supervised the program for the 7th and 8th graders. The 5th grade students help out with Spokane’s Meals On Wheels program, and the 6th graders take on various service projects in the school itself. McFaul coordinates Cataldo’s program with area nonprofit agencies. Sue Gosline coordinates with the teachers and parent volunteers.

McFaul is the mother of a Cataldo alum and a present Cataldo 7th grader. “The 7th grade students focus on partnering with child care agencies,” she said, “and the 8th grade students focus on a broader grouping of agencies. They’ll help seniors, and they help out at SpokAnimal Care,” among other organizations.

How has Cataldo’s Community Service Program changed over the years?

“I think that it’s becoming a bit more challenging to partner with non-profit agencies that are equipped to handle junior high students and are willing to find meaningful work at the level that our students are able to help,” said McFaul. “That has become a bit more difficult. Things are more complicated today, in the world we live in, unfortunately. The kids can no longer just show up and help. We have parent volunteers, who drive and chaperone, and everybody has to have a background check, we need to have insurance copies on file at the school if the parent is driving students someplace. Some nonprofit agencies just don’t have the staff to work with us, and some are not committed to meaningful work with volunteers. We’ve had to find child care agencies to partner with who can allow our kids to actually care for the children instead of just doing chores.”

This year, Cataldo 7th grade students serve once each month for two hours, on the afternoon of the third Wednesday, at Trinity School’s educare program, East Central Community’s Head Start program, the Liberty Park Child Development Center, and the Northeast Child Development Center. All are accredited childcare agencies that serve children from low income families.

The same day each month, Cataldo’s 8th grade students go to the Convent of the Holy Names; the House of Charity, Catholic Charities’ agency which serves the street people of downtown Spokane; Holy Family Adult Day Center; Emily Court Assisted Living; SpokAnimal Care; and St. Margaret Shelter, an emergency and transitional shelter for homeless women and their children.

“The students always wear their uniforms to wherever they’re serving,” McFaul said, “even if it’s a free dress day. It’s important to the school and to the program they serve in that they maintain the Cataldo identity. They represent the school as ambassadors.”

Each agency where Cataldo students serve completes an evaluation annually so the Community Service Program organizers can constantly critique and improve it. “We do make changes every year,” McFaul said. “We want to make sure that the students are in appropriate places, and we really do rely on the leadership in these agencies. They really do have to ‘get it’ and be committed to welcoming these junior high students. These are good kids and good ambassadors for Catholic schools.”

Sue Gosline is the mother of a Cataldo 8th grader and two Cataldo alums.

“This has always been such a great program, and every year when we start to get organized again, you start to worry,” she said, “‘Will we have enough drivers?’ and it always seems to work out. The biggest change, which has been disappointing, has been all the new state regulations that have led to our kids having less personal interaction with the little kids at the various agencies. The little kids that we serve just love it when our kids show up. But the program continues to get a lot of support from parents, and so forth.

“I’m really glad to have done this.”

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