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placeholder August 8, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA

At last year's Eighth-Grade Mass, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, challenged pupils to do a project for the Jubilee of Mercy.

Pupils respond to bishop's challenge

Eighth-Grade Mass expands to 2 days

At last year's Eighth-Grade Mass, weeks before the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said to the pupils:

"I'd like to challenge every eighth-grade class to do a project of a spiritual or corporal work of mercy," the bishop said. "I'll tell everyone about it in the Catholic newspaper. Then we'll write and tell the pope."

Some of those projects have been featured in The Catholic Voice over the past year. And at the end of the school year, pupils at Assumption School in San Leandro wrote about their project to the bishop. A selection of those letters is below.

Since 2011, a rite of passage for eighth-graders in schools in the Diocese of Oakland has been the invitation to join their peers for a presentation by an inspirational speaker and Mass in the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.

This year Eighth-Grade Day gets even better. There are two days — Sept. 13 and 14 — set aside for the pupils. Registration ends Sept. 1, and school leaders are encouraged to apply early to secure their choice of the two dates.

The festivities begin at 9:15 a.m. each day on the Cathedral Plaza, with interactive games to welcome the students. The speaker, Josh Burger, will give his talk in the cathedral at 10:15 a.m. A break on the plaza at 11:15 a.m. provides a chance for a light snack before the 12:10 p.m. Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop Barber.

For more information or to register, go to www.eastbaycatholic.com. Registration cost is $7 per pupil.

Improving lives

My name is Bo Chappel. This letter is about what I did.

On Feb. 5, I volunteered at the Alameda County Food Bank from 12:30-3:30 p.m. with three of my friends and one of their moms. The Alameda County Food Bank is a nonprofit organization that gives food to families in need. It isn't that these people are necessarily poor but they can't always provide food for themselves or their family. While I was there with my friends, we bagged pears but there were also carrots and apples. While I was bagging the fruit, I realized how fortunate I was. I realized that not many people have homes to go to or even food. Now I want to help those people. I want them to feel and be as lucky as me.

Another thing I did for my service learning project was clean up the Lake Chabot Reservoir, which serves as a standby emergency water supply. As I picked up the trash from 3 to 4 p.m. Feb. 10, it made me realize how selfish and unsympathetic people are to their surroundings. If California runs out of water we will turn to Lake Chabot but the water won't be pure because of the trash. This is making me really pay attention to where I throw my trash. Both of these works of service can help make the world a better place.

I thank you for helping us realize the work we can do in our own communities. I felt that my work really helped improve people's lives. I helped provide people with food and I will continue to help people as much as I can in the future.

Bo Chappel

Feeding the hungry

My name is Néha Gupta. This is what we did.

His Holiness, Pope Francis, named 2016 a Jubilee Year of Mercy. I decided to focus on feeding the hungry, which is one of my favorite corporal works of mercy.

On Jan. 2 and Feb. 6, I volunteered at the All Saints Food Pantry. I volunteered for 2½-hours each day. All the volunteers, including me and my friend, Naiman, sorted all the food into their spot on each table. While people lined up outside, we all stood in a circle and prayed for the hungry that we were about to serve. Then we each went to a different station and helped people choose the type of food they wanted. I served at the soup station and the beans station. I loved the light in people's eyes when they discovered their favorite type of soup (chicken noodle was popular). It was also fun to start conversations with people, like one guy who had the same Warrior's hat as me.

I'm grateful to you for helping us realize the work we can do in our own communities. I felt as light as a balloon when I did this work at the food pantry. I have now started volunteering at my old preschool and will continue to find places to dedicate my time to in the future.

Néha Atal Gupta

Build for the future

My name is Brandon Khuu. This letter shows how I helped my community and my feelings toward serving others.

I worked at the Alameda County Food Bank from 12:30-3:30 p.m. Feb. 5. I helped sort spoiled and fresh fruit to bag and distribute to people in need. I also worked around Castro Valley for Scouting for Food (Nov. 14, 15 and 21 for two-plus hours). I sent flyers around the Castro Valley neighborhood and picked up the food to send to the Alameda County Food Bank. Both of these works of mercy fit under feeding the hungry.

As a Catholic school student, I felt great serving my community knowing I'm making a difference to end hunger in the Bay area. I learned that one in five people in California are hungry and rely on a food bank for meals. I hope His Holiness is able to read my letter so he sees how far his word has spread. I would like to thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

I thank you for helping us realize the work we can do in our own community. I felt like my work contributed in ending hunger in the Bay Area and will continue to help my community for the better by helping more food banks/drives in the future.

Brandon Khuu

Visit the sick

My name is Michelle A. Ohwobete. Planning my special trip has really taken a huge role in changing my perspective on what Pope Francis declared as the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Along with that, it also encouraged me to really reach out into my community and do more than just simple tasks for service hours.

My class and I were persuaded by our teacher and school lessons to perform more spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Inspired by her words, I remembered something that my mom usually does on every third Sunday of the month, which is visit the sick in the hospital. Whenever she does this, she brings communion to them, prays with them and just generally stays to keep them company.

Even though most of these people don't know who she is, you can tell they really enjoy my mom's presence. I had gone with her once before but was too young to take any of it seriously or realize the importance of it. The words of my teacher and the message of the pope brought those memories flooding back which ultimately led me to my decision to revisit the hospital for this month's session.

Based off of what my mom has shared with me from her visits, I know this experience will be nothing short of life-changing and will give me time to repent and do more good in my life.

Thank you for your time invested in reading this letter and I hope you enjoyed learning about my special trip.

Michelle A. Ohwobete

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