Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale has bragging rights, having become the first school in the archdiocese to launch a Catholic Relief Services Club.
CRS is the humanitarian relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Aisling Molloy, a senior, serves as CRS Club president at Maria Regina, a college preparatory school for girls founded by the Sisters of the Resurrection.
“I really like CRS,” she told CNY last week, “how it’s providing opportunities to serve our community globally.”
Many people want to help out, she said, “but they don’t really know where to look. CRS definitely provides the resources to do so.”
Headquartered in Baltimore, CRS assists the poor and vulnerable overseas, motivated by the Gospel to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching.
The agency promotes human development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, and nurturing peaceful and just societies, and serves Catholics in the United States as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world.
Aisling, a member of St. Paul the Apostle parish in Yonkers, said she learned from a young age through the generosity of her parents the importance of stewardship and service.
“It makes me feel good, just to help people,” she said. “It’s a humbling experience just to see what people have gone through.”
An upcoming initiative of the club—in keeping with its mission to be in solidarity with and help the poor and vulnerable both locally and globally—is the Lenten CRS Rice Bowl campaign.
Each Lent, Catholic families across the country unite to put their faith into action through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Through CRS Rice Bowl, they learn about those across the globe who overcome hardships such as hunger and malnutrition and how, through Lenten alms, the world can be a better place for all.
An early highlight of the CRS Club for Aisling was visiting the St. Peter-St. Denis parish food pantry in Yonkers in November and meeting recipients in person.
“We were able to see the people and talk to them, and ask their experiences about what they’ve gone through and how they’re here now,” Aisling said. “It makes you just realize how much you have and how much you’re able to give back to others.”
Dr. Valerie Torres, a theology teacher and campus minister at Maria Regina, serves as the CRS Club adviser. The group, which operates under the auspices of the school’s Mission Outreach Club, has a membership of more than 100.
“The gift of this place is that the students are hungering to serve,” Dr. Torres told CNY. “It’s just amazing. If anything, we can’t do enough because they want to do so much.”
She hopes the CRS Club members learn “that along with doing the good, that it’s Good News, that it’s joyful.” Having “that openness to know the other and to embrace the other” are key to serving those in need, Dr. Torres said. “And to know that Jesus is in the center.”
Alyssa Palmer, a senior, coordinates public relations for the CRS club. She signed up, she told CNY, because of her belief in the power of unity and human kindness. “I think it’s really important to recognize that we’re all human and, especially as Catholics, that it’s our duty to help provide our brothers and sisters with the necessities they need to live comfortably.”
Sharing with peers photos of the club’s outreach endeavors through the school’s Instagram account has brought in more members, according to Alyssa. “So many people have joined the club just because they see what we do and they realize they can be a part of it. A lot of it is just us telling our friends about it.”
The CRS Club, she said, “shows how the Church is a part of our everyday lives…You have to incorporate everywhere you go what you learn through church. What church is, is something that you want to take with you everywhere.” Alyssa belongs to St. Barnabas parish, the Bronx.
That the CRS Club began during a global pandemic is apropos. “During Covid, I feel a lot of people can be distracted—there’s so much going on,” Alyssa said. “It’s important to remind yourself that there are people who have it a lot harder. We’re really blessed to have what we do have, and it’s important to give back.”