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Service Day Is Demonstration of St. Patricks/Parnell Motto: “To know God. To love God. To serve all.”

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders from St. Patrick’s School in Parnell, Michigan played and sang to an attentive crowd in the Pear Garden at Marywood on May 18. We so appreciate the thoughtful efforts of Mary Howell, residential life director for Marywood House, and the team from St. Patrick including middle school teacher Nikki Kevic and Andrew “Drew” Anderson, Director of Youth Faith Formation, who encouraged and coordinated the service day visit to the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids.

Anderson shared: “Our motto at St. Pat’s is “To know God. To love God. To serve all.” So what a wonderful opportunity for students to meet and serve Dominican Sisters.”

That background on this annual service day project is particularly touching, said Middle School Teacher Nikki Kevic. “The third Friday in May the students of St. Patrick School celebrate “Dorothy Day”, a day of service that began six years ago as a way to remember parishioner Dorothy Spedoski. Dorothy attended daily Mass and would take the time to move up and down the pews to exchange peace with all the students. This small act created an amazing bond of love and joy.”

“Our service projects have always focused on care and clean-up of the school and church grounds. We felt a strong desire to extend that service out into the community. Two 8th-graders members of our student leadership team suggested we find ways to reach out to the elderly. Once Mr. Anderson connected us with Marywood, Anna Doyle and Amber Koepsell were able to organize this amazing experience: choosing the songs that the band would play and the choir soloists would sing, and the gift we would make to show our joy in visiting the Sisters.

“Our students are so excited about the possibility of doing this every year. They said it was nice to do a service where they got to interact with Sisters. “One of our eighth grade students enjoyed the experience so much she said, `We are going to have to find a way to come back with you next year when we’re in high school; maybe we will have to take the day off or something.’

“As the coordinator of student leadership at our school, I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to help students discover their heart for service and to act on it. It is truly awesome to see the impact these actions have and how they grow beyond what any of us could have imagined. I look forward to seeing this new relationship with Marywood grow in the years to come,” said Kevic.

“The school and students have deeper roots with the Sisters including Sr. Alice Wittenbach, 1955 graduate of St. Pat’s High School and Sr. Rose Seraphine Sagorski’s great, great, great grand niece is in our band,” says Anderson, who is an Aquinas graduate and was a Dominican Friar for five years. His appreciation for the Dominican Sisters is great. “I was really excited to expose these students to the Sisters. My only regret was that they didn’t have as much time to talk with the Sisters about religious life.”

The Music Inclusion Model 

Michelle Ogren is St. Patrick’s music liturgy director and provides students grades 4-8 with the opportunity to provide music for the All School Mass each Friday. Ogren, with third grade teacher, Elizabeth D’Aurora, work with musicians and choir members to prepare each week. This is a voluntary program and students rehearse on Thursdays during lunch and 1/2 an hour before Mass.

Matt Palmieri is a full-time band teacher, splitting his days between St. Patrick’s Parnell and All Saints Catholic Elementary Schools. Students, grades 5-8 at both schools, attend band class every day, five days a week, just as they do Math and other areas of study.

According to St Pat’s Principal Scott Czarnopys, “For the past five years, we have invested in the music inclusion model. For kids to fully engage themselves in band, it can’t be two days a week. The research is profound that kids learning to read and play notes has application to other areas of learning and life.

“Band performances and visits are a really nice way to showcase and introduce our kids to others. “They are a responsible bunch of kids. We have a talented band director and he pulls every bit of talent out of our kids. We are fortunate to have an instructor with Matt’s enthusiasm and commitment.”