Each year St. Junipero Serra Catholic School (SJSC) focuses on a Lenten theme that supports the school’s 40-day spiritual journey. This year’s theme, “Christ’s Love Knows No Limits,” also incorporates the school’s virtue of the year, which is “Love.” Images of hearts imprinted with crosses adorn the hallways, classrooms, and lobby as a reminder of Christ’s supreme love and sacrifice.
To prepare for Easter students are focusing on prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent. Each morning, the entire student body recites the Apostles Creed to start the day and to remind them of the basic tenets of our faith. Students also have time each day to reflect on their fasting and on the individual Lenten promises that they wrote at the start of the Lenten season. As part of their almsgiving, students have collected money for Operation Rice Bowl and have gathered food to benefit the food banks at three of the school’s parishes. Supporting Operation Rice Bowl and collecting food for the food banks are two long-standing traditions at St. Junipero Serra Catholic.
Preparations for Lent began early this year. During Catholic Schools Week, St. Junipero Serra Catholic hosted speaker Cassandra Bissainthe from Catholic Relief Services. Cassandra spoke to middle-school students about what CRS is doing to help the poor and vulnerable. Then, on Feb. 14, the St. Serra community joined together for Ash Wednesday Mass. The Mass was celebrated by School Chaplain Fr. Jim Dunning who reminded students that God loves them and that they should turn their minds and hearts back to Our Lord.
Lent is a time of renewal, and SJSC has witnessed the transformation of traditions this Lenten season. One example is the Stations of the Cross, which all grade levels use to pray and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. This year, students were encouraged to take a “final walk” to pray the Stations of the Cross in the Mary Courtyard using the signs that have been part of the Lenten season at SJSC since its early years. The signs will be retired this year, as next year students will use the new, permanent Stations of the Cross that will be in place when the school’s new chapel opens.
Students also experienced renewal through the Sacrament of Reconciliation on March 5. The day began with a school-wide Lenten Prayer Service, titled “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” during which students reflected on preparing their hearts for God’s love. Fourteen priests from the Diocese of Orange heard the students’ individual confessions. A new and already-cherished SJSC tradition this year is the Bear Prayer Partners, a mentoring program that pairs middle-school students with students in grades one through four. Students attend Mass and other school events together, forming relationships that promise to last throughout their SJSC journey. This program provides older students with the opportunity to demonstrate leadership, patience, compassion, and respect for our Little Bears, and the youngest students enjoy having a special Big Bear to interact with on campus. During Lent, the 8th-grade students prayed the Stations of the Cross with their 4th-grade Bear Prayer Partners.
SJSC was blessed to have the National Evangelization Teams (NET) Ministries proclaim the Gospel of Christ through personal witnesses of faith at a sixth-grade Spiritual Retreat. This special Lenten activity, which took place on campus on Feb. 28, was the result of the collaboration of the teachers, staff, administrators, and parents who coordinated and hosted this ministry team.
During Lent we are called to do acts of almsgiving and mercy. In this spirit, St. Junipero Serra Catholic School concludes the Lenten Season with a new community project – SerraServes. Partnering with Kids Around the World, the community of SJSC will help feed children in need all around the world through the OneMeal project.
As in past years, St. Junipero Serra Catholic School’s Lenten activities have brought together the school community. The ideas of love and renewal, so beautifully expressed in this year’s theme, have come to life on campus through the comfort of old traditions paired with the excitement of new ones.