By Lois Rogers | Correspondent
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mountains of them, “handcrafted” by the LaSallian Youth ministry of Christian Brothers Academy, are a sure sign that another year of service and sharing is getting underway on the Lincroft campus.
As part of an ongoing tradition at the heart of the Gospel message to “Do unto others as you would do to yourself,” the young men gather in the school cafeteria twice a month to spend most of the day putting the sandwiches together. They then personally distribute the food to the homeless and needy in various neighborhoods around Asbury Park.
Campus Minister Timothy Sewnig, who shepherds the endeavor founded back in 2001 by theology teacher Jack Thawley, said once the sandwiches are packed, members of the Lasallian Youth ministry head to Asbury Park. There, over the years, people have come to look for the students and the sandwiches.
“They kind of know we are coming,” he said.
Among those who regularly make and take the sandwiches is senior Paul Mlodgenski, who has been involved in the effort since freshman year. “I think it’s really a good cause. It helps people, and it enables us to spend an enjoyable time with classmates after school.”
It’s also part of the overall service experience so key to a Lasallian education, said Mlodgenski, who hopes to study biology in college and go on to teach in a Lasallian high school.
That experience is aimed, according to the CBA website, at motivating students to reach out to the truly needy who are “dependent, who are hungry for the basics of which life has deprived them and who seek a more human quality of life.” Through the service program, young men such as Mlodgenski give service through Lasallian Youth projects, Special Olympics, soup kitchens, altar serving, and volunteering with programs such as ARC and Habitat for Humanity.
Mlodgenski noted that he and his fellow students also tutor at the West Side Christian Academy, Asbury Park. The tutoring, he said, “goes by grade level in math, reading, writing and science from sixth through eighth grade.”
Overall, the youth program, which has included a weeklong tutoring trip to the De La Salle Blackfeet School on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Mont., has been an inspiration, Mlodgenski said. The school serves a remote region on a reservation bordered by Canada and Glacier National Park. The school provides a Catholic education to those who are economically disadvantaged.
“It has shown me access to people of many backgrounds and cultures,” Mlodgenski said.
Montana, particularly, had a powerful impact on him, one that Mlodgenski said confirmed his desire to become a teacher. “I saw the children and their struggles. People don’t know about those struggles,” he said. “You need to encourage future generations.”
As school begins, Mlodgenski said he is looking forward to all the service opportunities his senior year will offer, opportunities for which he is grateful.
“One of the mottoes you learn in freshman year is to stand and serve for those in need. Service is the first thing you do” and because of that, he said, “you learn to recognize the needs of others and try to help people.”