Fish fries and tree sales connect men’s group at Our Lady of Grace with Cristo Rey students

| Jennifer Janikula | May 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Students Maguie Najera, Julio Tepozteco-Dominguez, and Kevin Sanudo-Dominguez from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School serve meals at the Our Lady of Grace Fish Fry on March 23. Photo courtesy of Jane Boardman

The relationship between the members of the Men’s Club at Our Lady of Grace in Edina and the students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in south Minnea­polis transitioned from monetary transactions to personal connections, with the help of Lenten fish fries and Christmas tree sales.

Since 2009, the OLG Men’s Club has offered financial support to Cristo Rey.  Like most of the school’s benefactors, the OLG Men’s Club appreciates Cristo Rey’s mission to provide a private, college prep education for students from low-income families.

After visiting the school and meeting the exceptional students, members of the Men’s Club realized they needed to contribute more than money — they needed to promote the school.  They were inspired by the Cristo Rey model, which helps the students find a path to college against the odds.

The odds, according to the 2012 report “Building a Grad Nation” released by John’s Hopkins University, indicate that 40 percent of minority students do not graduate from high school.  At Cristo Rey, nearly 100 percent of the students graduate and continue on to college or the military.

Men’s Club Trustee John McNeil, felt called to spread the word about all of the good work happening at Cristo Rey.

“It’s my job to make people aware and expose them to the work that Cristo Rey is doing, then the Holy Spirit does the rest,” said McNeil. “For most people, once they hear about the school and its mission, they want to help.”

A profitable exchange

McNeil encouraged the Men’s Club to bring the Cristo Rey story to the people of the parish by inviting the students into the community to work at the annual Lenten fish fry.

The students served food, bussed tables and interacted with parishioners. Father Timothy Manatt, president of Cristo Rey, said that the face-to-face interactions were affirming. “The students realize that people are genuinely interested in them and their future,” he said. “They begin to believe in their life’s possibility and realize that the world is bigger than their neighborhood.”

In December, Cristo Rey basketball players helped the OLG Men’s Club with the heavy lifting at the Christmas tree lot. The Men’s Club is one of the sponsors of the basketball team, so the students donated their labor as a way to show their gratitude.

Brandon Williams, Cristo Rey freshman and power forward for the basketball team, worked at the tree lot. He helped customers lift and tie down their trees. He didn’t mind the work because he understands the connection between the Men’s Club and his team.

“It’s nice to know that someone has your back,” said Williams, “We have funding for a trip to play in a Chicago tournament, we have uniforms and we have the support of the Men’s Club.”

The members of the OLG Men’s Club enjoy working directly with the Cristo Rey students. Past Men’s Club president David Liebl said, “We get to meet these terrific kids and it reminds us to keep our support going.”

The support continues as both Our Lady of Grace and Cristo Rey benefit from the promising partnership.

OLG parishioners volunteer as tutors, mentors and guidance counselors. They employ students in their companies, and even serve on the Cristo Rey board of directors. The Cristo Rey students continue to volunteer as greeters and servers at annual fundraisers.

Like many of Cristo Rey’s partners, the people of Our Lady of Grace value Cath­olic, college prep education and don’t want tuition to limit who has the opportunity to attend.

Father Manatt said that, as Catholics, “we are directed to have a faith that contributes to acts of justice in the world.  Cristo Rey is an educational ministry. People are committed to the school as a viable and successful expression of social justice.”

Tags: , ,

Category: Graduation