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Copyright 2020 - Bishop Guilfoyle

The Pope Francis Challenge, overseen by Robert Sutton, began in the wake of World Youth Day, in 2013, when Pope Francis challenged young Catholics worldwide to go out and do something special in their local diocese.

According to Sutton, BG “responded [by] coming up with a program that would ‘challenge’ each student in the school to collect 50 items over two months for the poor and needy in the area. This would give them time to involve other people in their families and neighborhoods, to make small donations here and there over those two months, and so involve even more people in giving.”

In that first year, more than 20,000 items were collected by BG students and donated to Catholic Charities in Altoona. It was the biggest single donation they had ever received! Catholic Charities took the items and distributed to all those in need, regardless of background, race, faith or situation.

This year, BG split up the donation between Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, the Church of the Brethren food pantry, the Reapers, the Mountain Lion Backpack Program and several others. “This year alone, we broke our previous records for full boxes of cereal (we collected more than 1,100 boxes this year!) and for ramen noodles (over 2,800 packages)!” says Sutton.

After all the items are brought into the school the week of Thanksgiving, students spend two days in religion classes unpacking boxes, sorting items, re-packing, labeling and moving them on to be delivered. Bishop Mark blesses all the items at the Mass the day before Thanksgiving, before the items are loaded up on the delivery trucks.

Another pre-Thanksgiving activity is the commissioning of the BG student Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. “These students go through special training here at the school in which they learn about the heart of that ministry and the nuts and bolts of how to administer and safeguard the Body and Blood of Jesus at Mass,” explains Sutton. “At Mass with Bishop Mark, they then come forward at the homily to affirm their desire to serve the Church in this way, and are officially commissioned by him, as well as given blessed eucharistic pins which they wear with their uniforms the rest of the year. Those students will then serve as extraordinary ministers at the remaining school Masses this year, and many of them will do so in their home parishes as well. This year we had 19 senior students commissioned; they treat the occasion with great solemnity and even a little nervousness, which are the best reactions to have! It clearly means a lot to them.”