For St. Mary’s School in Bryantown, Maryland, Catholic Schools Week isn’t just about celebrating the gift of a Catholic education. It’s also about serving others. 

Service, the school’s virtue for the month of January, inspired a community service event the school hosted during the afternoon of Jan. 27, packing bags with items for the homeless.

“Part of what we do is instill service in our students,” said Sharon Caniglia, who has been St. Mary's principal for 16 years. “Catholic Schools Week is always service oriented.” 

Sharon Caniglia,the principal at St. Mary's School in Bryantown, helps a younger student draw an angel on his bag which was later packed with goods such as soap and socks for those in need. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann)

St. Mary’s School celebrates Catholic Schools Week each year with activities that unite both the St. Mary’s families and the local community, including a Navy Cruiser Band concert and “faith-filled Friday” with Mass and activities. 

Students donated many items for the service project such as soaps, tissues, socks, hair supplies and toothbrushes to pack into the bags. 

Fifth grader Daylyn Constantine said participating in this service project “felt good that you can help someone in need.”

“Especially when you realize all that you have,” she added. 

The students decorated the bags with their school’s mascot, an angel, before placing the donated items in the bag. They also made holy cards with encouraging messages such as “God’s love never fails. God loves you,” which is what second grader Shylah Savoy wrote on her card. 

The bags of necessities will benefit the Children’s Aid Society of St. Charles County, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Angel’s Watch Shelter in Southern Maryland, and LifeStyles Inc. in La Plata, Maryland. 

“It gives so much joy to me, and (to) all the people who get these bags,” third grader Grace Balderson said of the service project, adding that the activity helps the school “celebrate how much we love our Catholic school. I love that we get to learn about God.”

The bags that the students put together will benefit the Children’s Aid Society of St. Charles County, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Angel’s Watch Shelter in Southern Maryland and LifeStyles Inc. in La Plata, Maryland. (CS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann) 

As the students were decorating and preparing the bags, they were paired off with their prayer partners, an older student and a younger student who participate in school activities, such as Mass, together. 

Seventh grader Donovan De La Cruz said he enjoyed this project because of the aspect of helping those in need. 

“I like that we get to help out others in the community,” he said. 

His classmate, Agmaris Elias, added that she loves how their Catholic school allows them “to grow in our faith and do fun activities,” she said. 

St. Mary’s School in Bryantown has 247 students ranging from prekindergarten to eighth grade. In the upcoming 2020-21 school year, the school will celebrate its 105th year.