The Spring Lake parochial school officially rolled out their “Love One Another” theme for the school year at the beginning of the Advent season. Students are being challenged to engage in random acts of kindness throughout the rest of the school year.
The theme also pays tribute to Jim Penrice, who was a father and faith formation director for St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He died in September at the age of 56.
St. Mary’s Principal Steve VanHammen said that it is a “perfect” theme to honor Penrice and the “greatest message” from Jesus.
Penrice worked with St. Mary’s teachers for faith formation courses and discussions of Catholicism, said first-grade classroom aide Alissa Mullally. She said they were devastated to lose Penrice, and he’s greatly missed.
During his last meeting with the school’s staff, Penrice spoke about how to spread God’s message in a world that isn’t open to hearing it, said Mullally, who is also a parent and St. Mary’s parishioner. Mullally said that Penrice encouraged them to spread the message by loving each other. When the school considered a biblical theme for the year, Mullally said that Penrice’s message and God’s message fit together.
Students will be recognized for their acts of kindness by receiving small red hearts, which will be placed around the school.
Mullally said she’s already noticed students saying “please” and “thank you” more, as well as being mindful in their interactions with others.
Plans are also being worked out for specific activities each month aimed at building a St. Mary’s family community.
As families live out the message and theme throughout the rest of the school year, VanHammen said he hopes people will refocus and take a moment to stop and think about their purpose.
“The first thing to do is to love one another,” he said.