By all appearances, one of the Valley’s latest artisan marketplaces was proving itself to be a fairly reputable competitor.

It had a built-in customer base, handmade products that largely catered to their interests and the occasional list of back orders to keep up with demand or ensure custom items.

A St. Francis Xavier student purchases an item at the school's Arrupe Marketplace Feb. 19. Student vendors chose an organization and a specific need to address with their proceeds. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
A St. Francis Xavier student purchases an item at the school’s Arrupe Marketplace Feb. 19. Student vendors chose an organization and a specific need to address with their proceeds. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A key difference for the Arrupe Marketplace: every one of its 78 vendors was a seventh-grade entrepreneur. Plus, profits weren’t lining their junior high pockets, but concretely helping fulfill an outstanding need for a local charity committed to social justice.

The Arrupe Marketplace is one facet of the Arrupe Project. The effort is in its sixth year at St. Francis Xavier School and was designed as a way for junior high religion students to intimately support local charities carrying out a spiritual or corporal work of mercy. It also gives students a small taste of business ownership and the responsibilities and decisions that come with it.


Arrupe Project

Photos from Marketplace

Shop yourself after 9 a.m. Mass March 6. Map.

Photos from Commissioning Mass


The seventh-graders held a one-day marketplace open to students Feb. 19 and will hold one for the parish community after the 9 a.m. Mass March 6. As eighth-graders, students still support a charity — the same one or they might discern a different one — but they organize and execute a fundraiser event on behalf of the charity.

Both were commissioned for their effort during a school liturgy Jan. 21 and earned $10 in startup funds. In either case, St. Francis Xavier students discuss current material needs with someone at their selected organization and use funds to buy and hand deliver the item(s).

“What amazes me is the kids, by the end of their Arrupe Journey, that they don’t look at it as just a grade, but it’s something that’s imprinted on them forever,” said Kelsey McKone, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade religion.

(Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
(Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A guest speaker from Catholic Charities Community Services addresses the students each fall at the beginning of the Arrupe Project journey. Many students select one of its many programs to support.

Others, through the same discernment process, decide that they would like to support organizations such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix Rescue Mission, Ryan House, the Smile Project, Foundation for the Blind or UMOM. Whatever they decide, McKone said the beneficiary must be one that stands for Catholic social teaching and must help people, not animals.

Lauren Etsitty decided to support a Catholic Charities program that provides basic essentials for clients transitioning out of homelessness.

“I have a long drive home, so I see a lot of people along the side of the street and it made me really sad,” Etsitty said. She found that the Arrupe Project gave her a way to help them.

The seventh-grader combined her favorite things for the marketplace: flowers, glitter and love for sewing. She sold hand-sewn pillows large letters covered in and artificial flowers.

(Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Seventh-graders Ryan Blake and Casey Rich await customers at the school’s annual Arrupe Marketplace Feb. 19. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Classmate Ryan Blake sold a variety of small items: silly puddy, origami wolves after the school’s mascot and custom-painted golf balls. The small containers of brightly-colored slime were his biggest seller. Blake is using proceeds to benefit Ryan House, which helps terminally ill kids and their families.

“It’s an important part of life and it’s important to be happy during that time,” Blake said.

Proceeds from other sales helped refugees to get bicycles to use for transportation, children in foster care, veterans in need of a home and those with autism.