Summer break has wrapped up with its whirlwind of camps, activities, and vacations. Students have found their new classrooms and settled into a new routine for their school days. Within these routines for the children, a group of volunteers called Solanus Saints has found their way back into the school again as well.
Solanus Saints is a group of parishioners that go into the classrooms at St. Francis Solanus School to assist the teachers in different ways. Primarily, this has looked like tutoring children who have needed a little extra help with certain subjects. While several of the volunteers are retired teachers, this is certainly not a requirement to be a part of this ministry.
For Maureen Makarewicz, being a part of this ministry was a natural step for her after retiring from teaching at St. Francis.
“We are happy to help teachers in whatever capacity they need,” she says. “Ultimately, we are working to support the children in succeeding in whatever ways we can. Our teachers do great work and we are just one tool that they have to help the children succeed.”
Sometimes a student may need a test read to them or sometimes they may need some extra reading practice. Just having another supporting adult to fill in some of the spaces that a teacher in a classroom of many children can’t is small, but important work.
“When you walk into the classroom and see the children excited to see you, that is such a great moment,” Maureen says. “When you get to see the progress that students are making in their learning, it is such a special task. You get to see the children and learn about their interests inside and outside of school. We get to engage with them and we pray that they see us as a positive influence in their lives.”
Volunteers for this ministry are able to work within their own schedules. Most choose which day works best for them to go to the school to help. Typically the volunteers work in kindergarten through fifth grade, but that can change based on the school’s needs.
“There is no criteria for a special degree or education,” Maureen says. “We just need people who have the time, interest, and desire to help the children. You just have to have that nurturing spirit to care for the children. The teachers are great about saying, ‘This child needs this kind of help today,’ and then providing the materials and walking you through anything else you may need.”
The relationship between the parish and the school is a very important one. It can sometimes feel like they are two separate parts of the church, but the school is an incredibly important part of our parish and the parish must do everything they can to support the school. This ministry is a very tangible way that the parish can do just that.
“The tradition of having a parish school here is so special,” Maureen says. “They keep our parish young and vibrant. The children are the future of our parish and we need this generation of students. The children will be doing our jobs long after I’m gone. It takes all of us to work and help them get to where they need to be. Anything we can do to show them what God has asked us to do in giving of our time and talents is a wonderful message to send them.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for Solanus Saints may call the parish office at 217-222-2898.