Students at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring celebrated Mother’s Day a few days early as they held a traditional May Crowning, prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary for peace, and presented Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville with the money that they raised for the Knights of Malta's Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem during a school Mass on May 8.

During his homily, Bishop Dorsonville told the children that the Virgin Mary “takes care of our mothers here on Earth and in Heaven.”

He told the students Mary appears in countries all over the world, presenting herself in the style of various different cultures, and wherever she appears, her most important message is “Trust in Heaven.”

“The most important message for a person here on Earth is to have his or her heart set on Heaven,” Bishop Dorsonville said, before asking everyone who wants to go to Heaven to stand up.

After nearly everyone in the Church stood up, Bishop Dorsonville asked the students how they can get to Heaven, and they responded by saying they need to respect each other and love each other. 

Bishop Dorsonville told the students that they have done a good job of that through the collection they did for the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, which cares for poor Palestinian mothersin the city where Mary gave birth to Jesus.

“Even then you don’t know the moms and the babies, you are saying, ‘Happy Mother’s Day, we want to help you have your child,’” he told the students. “We are taking care of those who we don’t even know.”

Following the homily, several students came forward to present Bishop Dorsonville with a crown of flowers, which he blessed and gave to a student to place on a statue of Mary. Second grade students, all dressed in their First Communion dresses and suits, came forward and one by one placed a flower in front of the statue.

“When we say to Mary, ‘We are going to crown you’, we say, ‘We love you, we want to follow you,’ but there are not only words, there are actions,” said Bishop Dorsonville, noting the donation as a way the students crown Mary through their actions.

At the beginning of Lent, the school started collecting donations for the hospital. The students raised about $1,100, and a generous member of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring donated the other $2,000. The students also raised $851 for volunteers from St. Camillus to go to Puerto Rico to help with aid to those hurt by Hurricane Maria which engulfed the island this past September.

On Mother’s Day, “it is really important to give a kiss to your mothers,” Bishop Dorsonville said. “It is also important to send a kiss away from our country to so many mothers.” 

He added that the charity and generosity shown by the school is fulfilling what Pope Francis asks for when he talks about moving from a “culture of indifference” to a “culture of solidarity.”

Following the Mass, students dressed in traditional clothes from various countries prayed the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary for peace, with prayers said in different languages that included Creole, French, Spanish, Bangla, Vietnamese, and Amharic.

Toby Harkleroad, the school’s principal, noted that one of the St. Francis International School’s goals is “for our children to see the Church and the world not just as this place and these neighborhoods, but to know we are connected to people all over the world.”

This goal is made concrete by asking them to bring in donations for people across the world, and also through the photos that Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowskishowed the students from his trip to the Holy Land. 

Harkleroad said it is particularly powerful to see these students, many of whom are facing financial challenges of their own, give so freely to others. 

“They are going out of their comfort zone to support them,” said Harkleroad.