At St. Teresa of Calcutta School in Adams County, Father Milton and Sister Gertrude have been busy this fall encouraging students to support pro-life causes.
Throughout the month of October, their bespectacled and smiling faces looked on as students donated coins and dollars to the Diocese’s Pennies for Life campaign.
But the religious twosome didn’t do it through classroom visits or the celebration of Mass.
Father Milton and Sister Gertrude are pumpkins, two of 48 fellow gourds decorated by teachers and students from St. Teresa’s two campuses: the Conewago Campus, for PreK-3, and the McSherrystown Campus, for 4-8.
Reveling in her comical creations, eighth-grader Jade Kent said she was excited that Father Milton and Sister Gertrude were part of a cause that launched the school’s Pennies for Life collection upwards of $3,000.
The orange-skinned duo isn’t representative of any religious figures at St. Teresa’s; they’re just models, Kent said, with “fun names for their personalities.”
“A lot of kids like to decorate pumpkins, so we thought it would be fun to have a contest to vote for a winner. We asked for quarters to vote, and thought it was a fun idea to raise money for Pennies for Life,” Kent said.
Pennies for Life is an effort of the Diocesan Office of Family and Respect Life Ministries to raise money for pro-life causes throughout central Pennsylvania. Parishes and schools are encouraged to participate in the program, and often do so through baby bottle drives, runs/walks, bake sales or contests. The proceeds support five local pregnancy resource centers, post-abortion ministry, and pro-life education throughout the region.
Last year, St. Teresa of Calcutta students collected more than $3,500 for the campaign, and followed it up this year on a similar trajectory. Moreover, the fundraiser is an activity led by the Student Council.
“We think that a contest is the best way to get kids involved in having fun,” Student Council member Kat Keller said of the painted pumpkin patch. A $1 entry fee and 25 cents per vote quickly boosted the fundraiser.
Each classroom was given a bucket to fill with dollars and coins, too, to help fuel competition. Student Council representatives collected the buckets each day, and placed the money in large baby bottles lining the gym floor, so students could monitor progress. The overall class winner – seventh grade – was rewarded with a “pajama dress-down day” and a gold-painted baby bottle trophy. This year, the winning class was seventh grade.
“I liked participating in Pennies for Life because I thought it was a good thing for the babies, and I think it was good that we brought in so much money,” said fourth-grader Ella Staub. She helped contribute with a green-faced witch, complete with a crooked stem-nose, paper hair and black hat.
“I think it was good because we could help save lives,” Staub said. “Each class filled up their bottles a couple times, which was cool, because that’s a lot of money.”
Keller said she enjoyed seeing how her school – a merger of Annunciation BVM School in McSherrystown and Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Conewago in 2017 – came together in the pro-life effort.
“In all of our classes, we all come together. We all think this project is really important, giving back to the community,” Keller said. “Since our schools merged to St. Teresa of Calcutta School, everyone has come together. We’re all working to achieve this year to beat our donations from last year.”
Crystal Noel, Executive Principal, said the Pennies for Life project ties perfectly with the school’s tagline, “Doing Small Things with Great Love.”
“I am very impressed by our Student Council. They are our future and they are our leaders. They’ve taken this project and have run with it. This year, I can see them really putting their spin on things and taking ownership of it,” she said. They’re very thoughtful and considerate, and that comes from the leadership piece of knowing who we are as a school.”
“This is our third year as merged school. With it came so much change, and the students have led it and made it their own,” Noel said. “We’re letting them guide that ship a lot of times. They feel welcomed, they feel loved, they feel ownership of this new school.”
(Learn more about St. Teresa of Calcutta School at www.stck8school.org. For information on Pennies for Life, contact the Diocesan Office of Family and Respect Life Activities at 717-657-4804.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness