James Bendele, Ministry Lead for the Marianist Encounters Project at Central Catholic High School, San Antonio, TX, shares this beautiful example of integrating environmental learning with service in the Marianist spirit.
The Guardian Angels are a group from Central Catholic High School (CCHS) in San Antonio that participates in service projects or drives almost every single week throughout the school year. On August 27th, 2022, a group of 25 Central Catholic Guardian Angels (and two younger siblings from another school) spent their Saturday morning volunteering at the Mission San Juan Community Farm. This farm is entirely organic and Mission San Juan's produce is grown environmentally and sustainably. It was hot and humid that day, but the guys had a blast. Coincidentally, Jacob Maldonado (CCHS alum – class of 2017 and former Guardian Angels president - see first photograph below) was also volunteering at the project with a group known as the Good Samaritans and gave a powerful motivational speech to our current Central Catholic Guardian Angels. Much of the produce from this farm goes toward feeding the homeless at Haven for Hope and needy families at the San Antonio Food Bank.
After the project, Mr. James Bendele (Science faculty, Master Naturalist, and Guardian Angel moderator) led a hike around the historic mission and the San Antonio River while pointing out the native flora and fauna associated with the South Texas Brush Country.
One week later (on September 3rd), the Guardian Angels were able to volunteer at Haven for Hope to serve the homeless! There were 19 young men from Central Catholic (and one amazing young lady – Mr. Bendele's daughter, Terra) who helped. Mr. Tim Hansen (Social Studies faculty) also joined the group. We ended up making 3,840 sandwiches and served lunch to over 400 individuals. One essential item to point out – we were serving vegetables that had been locally grown at the San Juan Community Farm (where we had volunteered just a week before)!
As you can tell from the pictures below, our guys had a BLAST serving the community while also learning about sustainable agriculture and native ecosystems!