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U.S., being missionaries while staying at home: students at a Catholic school bake biscuits for prisoners

Prisoners in a US prison and students at a Catholic school. To be missionaries, to exercise mercy: many people see this as leaving one’s place of origin to go far from home

But the students of the St Mary Help of Christians Catholic school seem to offer us another interpretation: in a complex reality such as the one we live in today, there are worlds and people who are far away despite being close to home.

Students at a Catholic school bake biscuits to give hope to prisoners

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Prison reality, in the US as elsewhere in the world, perfectly reflects this dimension of parallel universes, even though they occupy practically the same physical space.

And something as simple as giving an inmate an oatmeal biscuit with sprinkles becomes a way in which Aiken school students are showing God’s love and mercy to those in search of hope.

As a way to teach children the importance of giving back, students at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School recently baked cookies for men who are prisoners at Broad River Correctional Institution located outside of Columbia.

St. Mary Help of Christians is part of a Catholic parish of the Diocese of Charleston.

The parish has a prison ministry that visits prisoners, and one request from the prisoners was cookies.

Each student at the school helped bake 5,000 cookies that will be given to the prisoners

Joan LaBone, youth director for the parish, said it was her idea to have the students at the school bake cookies for prisoners.

She said her goal is to teach the students about acts of helping others beyond donating to the food pantry, and baking cookies gave the student a personal connection to a prisoner.

She hopes each time a prisoner receives a cookie they will get to see hope.

“It is a way for them to do something concrete for them to do something for the people in prison instead of praying for them,” LaBone said.

Sixth grader Brynn Taylor said it was a good opportunity for students to give thanks and help people in need.

Another sixth grader, Olivia Cavero, said she learned about giving thanks and the works of mercy, which include feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners

“We learned that it’s not just for the people who don’t have it, it’s great to do it for people, but you can also do it on your own,” she said.

LaBone said she hopes the students will have more concrete ways to serve the community and they will take it with them to adulthood.

“When you give them the opportunity to serve when they are young, they can take it when they are older and remember those good memories,” she said.

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