While many Catholics think about Catholic Relief Services during Lent, there are ways to do so beyond those 40 days.

“It’s part of who we are. It’s helping our Church help others,” said Ann Maloney, director of Christian Formation at St. Thomas More in Glendale.

The parish’s DJs, Disciples of Jesus, serve regular hot dog or chicken tenders meals at St. Thomas More in Glendale and donate the proceeds. (photo courtesy of ST. THOMAS MORE)

The parish’s fifth-graders support CRS monthly by hosting simple dinners between the weekday religious education classes. Money raised benefits CRS. The nine-year effort switched from a project for Heifer International to CRS a few years ago, but operations remain the same.

Students bring desserts to share and work with Maloney plus a handful of rotating parent volunteers who purchase and prepare hot dogs, chicken tenders, fries and nachos. Dinners are $3 each with nachos and desserts a small extra fee.

Parents, teachers and some grandparents become customers with the fifth-graders, who call themselves “DJs,” short for “Disciples of Jesus,” taking and delivering orders, managing the pay station, serving drinks and overseeing the nacho table. They also crunch numbers afterwards to determine net profit. Last year netted more than $6,000. The DJs are already over $5,000 for this year with the final dinner served earlier this month.

“They are learning how to serve and finding serving others can be fun. It’s not required,” Maloney said of both the service opportunity and the religious education class itself. They were confirmed in third grade.

Yet, they eagerly arrive 45 minutes prior to class to serve the dinner and respectfully rotate dinner duties. Maloney said there’s always a job or two that’s not quite as desirable as the others.

“They’re very orderly and organized and they take great pride in what they do,” she said, noting the DJs enjoy seeing a smile on their customer’s faces.

The campus chaplain at Benedictine University in Mesa is discerning involvement in CRS’ Student Ambassador program. Its main campus is already among the 107 Catholic and secular universities involved nationwide.

The idea came up during a Feb. 21 visit from CRS’ regional representative and a visit from Thomas Awiapo, a man from Ghana who survived childhood with CRS’ help. Students, particularly those in a global orphans class, soaked up Awiapo’s story.

For non-Catholic students, the visit further enlightened them about the Church’s work for social justice. Rob Curtis, campus minister, said it helped them “to know the Church is not just about Mass and prayer, it’s truly engaged in the world.”

Sr. Mary Angela Alexander, RSM, diocesan director of CRS, loves to see how local Catholics of all ages find creative ways to support the need of others, especially those they may never meet. In some countries, $20 can stretch pretty far, she said, such as buying two goats for a village mother who once struggled to feed her children. Now, they had a source for milk and could even sell extra milk or the animal itself.

“What that meant for her practically, was less trips to the doctor because her children were healthier,” Sr. Mary Angela said. It also meant additional income and sustainable living.

Support CRS

Rice Bowl throughout Lent

CRS special collection at Masses March 30-31

CRS impact