- Faith Life
“You did it to me.” In the parable of the sheep and the goats, also sometimes called the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus tells us that in the final hour, standing before our Lord, we will be judged by this criterion: did you care for me when I was hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison, and sick? Apparently, the sheep (who are welcomed into glory in this story) did all those things for their Lord, but they have no recollection! Their Lord tells them, “when you did it to the least among you, you did it to me.”
This Gospel story is but one of many that provide the guidelines for why we do service at Pope John Paul II Preparatory School. The goal of our lives is to glorify God, and it is through the person of Jesus who allows us to do that. Jesus tells us that when we care for the least among us, we care for him, as St. Teresa of Calcutta once wrote, “under the disguise of the poor.” This is the heart of our service program - to facilitate an encounter with our Lord and to carry out this most basic command to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). And all of these experiences contribute to our mission of “overcoming individualistic self-promotion, solidarity instead of competition, assisting the weak instead of marginalization, responsible participation instead of indifference.”
The basic building block of the Church’s teaching on social justice is the principle of human dignity. The question that cuts to the heart of whether a society is just is, how do we treat the weak, poor, vulnerable, and marginalized of our community? Jesus calls us to lift them up and to pay close attention to them.
That is why during our yearly class service retreats, we often serve in organizations oriented towards helping the poor and marginalized in our city and our world. Room In the Inn and Nashville Rescue Mission provide immediate relief for people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in Nashville. Project C.U.R.E. provides medical supplies for communities at home and abroad experiencing crises (many containers over the past year have gone to Ukraine).
This is also why our students are asked to complete some of their required service hours with an approved non-profit organization that hopefully serves the vulnerable in our communities.
And finally, this is why our senior service program prioritizes serving in places like senior memory care facilities, public and private elementary and middle schools, and hospitals. The program is committed to building a just society and caring for the poor and vulnerable. What’s unique and essential about the approach to this endeavor is that it is rooted in an encounter with a person, an experience of compassion, in whom we see Jesus.
Daniel Dion, Community Service Program Coordinator and Theology Teacher
About the Author
Daniel Dion is from central Connecticut, where he attended East Catholic High School. A Boston College and Harvard Divinity School graduate, Daniel has been working for 15 years at the secondary and collegiate levels in Catholic education. Before coming to Pope Prep, he was Assistant Principal at Jesuit Dallas in Texas. He moved to Nashville during the pandemic to be closer to family, beginning at Pope Prep in 2021. He is the Community Service Program Coordinator and a Theology Teacher.