Cemo Auditorium is often a buzz of St. Thomas student activity, whether the latest rave-review theatre production, the rejoicing surround sound from a Christmas concert or a celebratory salute to award-winning Eagle Athletics.
But few swirls within Cemo have ever matched the impact which was recently carried from campus and felt beyond borders.
Evan Chavez ‘19 was side-by-side working in tandem with his fellow sophomores, along with volunteer faculty and staff, donned in hairnets and aprons, stuffing then sealing air-tight packets with food, and packing boxes with life-saving nutrition for the chronically malnourished.
In the afternoon the Class of 2020 assumed the assembly line production, and by the end of the academic day, the collective STH effort, paired with an anonymous donor whose philanthropy graciously provided $25,000 in support, would generate 100,000 meals for villages in Nicaragua, Haiti and Guatemala.
“It’s a great way to help a community, and come together and bond as a (student) group at the same time,” Chavez said. “I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s amazing to think that we could help feed so many people in just a few hours. It’s great that St. Thomas would get us all involved in such a project.”
More than a decade ago St. Thomas Campus Ministry under the dedicated direction of Marty Matulia established a consistently strong relationship with Magnificat House and its Loaves and Fishes program which provides meals for many of Houston’s hungry and homeless.
Prior to the current academic year Matulia connected with Cross Catholic Outreach, a 501c3 Catholic relief and development ministry registered with the Diocese of Palm Beach in South Florida, and quickly recognized an opportunity to galvanize Eagle students and the campus community with a collaborative effort very much consistent with the Basilian mission to serve the needs of others.
“I’ve spent so much time with Loaves and Fishes and on mission trips to Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. And next year we have a visit planned for Cuba,” Matulia said. “You realize there’s no reason we should have hunger in the world. I’m just glad that with all the problems that we read about every single day, St. Thomas could be part of a solution, to try to make a difference from our small corner of the world.”
According to the Cross Catholic’s website, the organization is committed to providing “food, shelter, medical care, education and emergency relief to the poorest of the poor in dioceses around the world in the name of Christ … housing for the homeless, medicines and health care for the indigent and clean water for communities that have none.”
Cross Catholic is involved in various You(th) versus Hunger events with academic institutions but this partnership with St. Thomas was one of a limited number that would generate as many as 100,000 Vitafood meals, nutrient-rich foods scientifically designed to feed developing nations.
Cross Catholic Development Officer Katie McCarthy was a witness the St. Thomas food-packing event and marveled at how the Eagle brotherhood embraced the cause.
“I love seeing so many young people involved and excited,” McCarthy said. “I want them to walk away from this with the feeling of giving back, to go home to dinner with their families, recognize that not every child has that very same opportunity, and understand that today they did something to make sure those in need were fed.”
For generations St. Thomas has instilled social responsibility in nurturing the complete student by creating a culture rooted in volunteer service, emphasizing that individual formation requires more than achievement in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, but is buttressed and balanced by devoting significant energy and talent for the betterment of their communities.
Matulia believes the impetus for this fellowship with Cross Catholic was built months before during a summer service project with the Houston Food Bank, as part of the inaugural Camp GDK for incoming Eagle freshmen, all with the aim of laying the foundation for a lifelong stewardship for sacrifice, sharing and social justice.
“I know that so many of our students will eventually become successful professionals and the civic leaders of tomorrow,” Matulia said. “They’ll be in a position of influence or means. My hope is that after participating in projects like this, they’ll remain inspired to continue to help those less fortunate.”
Catholic. Basilian. Teaching Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge since 1900.