The emphasis on service at Marquette Catholic High School (MCHS) has always been prevalent in the student program, but in the last three years Kathleen Beeler, a theology teacher, has built up an entirely new addition to the program: service retreats. Up to 14 students can visit Chicago for the sole purpose of serving the homeless and hungry multiple times throughout the school year.
The small group spends one to two full days at a soup kitchen setting up, preparing, serving, and cleaning up the meal. Between preparing and closing, students have time to sit down and enjoy conversations with those they serve.
Students and chaperones then visit the viaducts, where they deliver care packages and pass out information from the Pope Francis Center, which provides expansive services to those who live on the streets.
“We listen to speakers from the Pope Francis center, Saint Vincent DePaul Society, and we have also had homeless guest speakers,” Beeler said.
The students leave with hands-on experience in service, horizon-expanding conversation, and newfound knowledge of the cycle of poverty and homelessness.
Beeler stated that removing the students from what they know here in LaPorte County pushes them to grow out of their comfort zone to truly understand the issues that the homeless face all while showing them how they can make a difference. She emphasized that local projects are just as important, and once the students return home, they “go back to their own communities to be advocates there”.
For now, the retreats focus on the homeless of Chicago, but the service program at Marquette provides many other opportunities to serve those in Northwest Indiana, such as the weekly visits to Sharing Meadows, a live-in community for differently abled adults in LaPorte.
Service at MCHS is an important part of the curriculum for students, and the service retreats have allowed students to grow and learn while serving their fellow humans.
Kathleen Beeler, a legacy alumnus of Marquette, now teaches theology to every grade level at MCHS. She spent the majority of her 22 years of teaching at Catholic schools, ranging from sixth through twelfth grade and from social studies to theology. She returned to MCHS to pay forward her time as a student, which was full of fun and confidence. She has come full circle, now teaching and supporting kids that are reflections of her past self.
“The hardest part of teaching is that it’s never just a job. There are kids with risky behavior and I can’t reach someone without them having to decide to help themselves. It is hard to break through to these kids, but I’m continuing to give them the tools they need and be there unconditionally,” said Beeler said.
On teaching theology, she said it is an interesting period in students’ lives.
“They (students) are adjusting to many life changes and with that comes many questions about themselves and their relationship with faith,” Beeler said.
She acknowledged that theology is not an easy subject, and the best way to approach it is to be patient, compassionate, and to lead by example.
Hannah Downs is an active voice for students and the community alike. A graduating senior, she is a member of the National Honors Society, sits on the dance committee, and plays for Girls’ Blazer Tennis.
The most prominent of her commitments is the National Honors Society due to her passion for service and its ability to expand her horizon on helping others. She has attended several service retreats, which have had a great impact on her through the friendships forged with people she “would have least expected” and helping her to discover a new perspective on those they serve.
“The biggest lesson learned through working with the soup kitchen during the retreats is to just listen to the less fortunate because they need the feeling of dignity more than money,” said Downs.
Downs’ biggest challenges with school are time management and balance. On top of keeping up with school, she works and spends time with family and friends. Through it all, she keeps her “best foot forward by giving it [her] all”. Her advice to underclassmen is to challenge themselves, try new ventures, and have fun in high school. She plans to attend college and take exploratory studies to decide her future major and career.
What’s Coming Up?
On October 23, Marquette Catholic will be hosting a “Bubbles and Brushes” event, an art experience provided by resident artist Edwin Shelton to raise money for Marquette’s Athletic Compound, less than four miles south of Marquette. Shelton is a Michigan city resident of 27 years. He was a program director at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts for five years, and has been teaching for six years. Before his involvement in the Michigan City community, he owned his own ceramic business with wife and fellow artist Laurel Izard for twenty years. Now, Shelton teaches art classes at Marquette ranging from painting to ceramics, and was invited to teach for this upcoming fundraiser.
“Bubbles and Brushes is a one-night event for people to come together, escape the digital world, and jumpstart creativity,” said Shelton.
Shelton shared that people tend to shy away from art for fear of failure, but he truly believes anyone can be an artist.
“The thing with art is that there is no failure, as long as there’s effort and fun,” said Shelton.
The event will take place on October 23 at 6:00 pm. Proceeds from the event will go toward the Marquette Athletic Compound.
“There will be a new building to house restrooms, concessions, scorekeepers and storage,” said Luanne Fettig. “Paving the gravel area is in our future plans.”
Guests will be painting a cat and pumpkin on stretched canvas. The cost is $35 per person. Attendees can RSVP and find more information by visiting the Marquette Catholic website (marquette-hs.org).