New York Catholic Schools Reach Out to Help Schools in Florida Diocese


Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York are stepping forward with prayer and service to assist schools in the Diocese of Venice, Fla., affected by Hurricane Ian.

The category-4 storm with 150 mile per hour winds killed more than 100 people in Florida and left many in the Fort Myers area homeless and others experiencing life-changing losses.

“A big part of the Catholic school tradition is teaching students about prayer and teaching students about service,” Sister Jean Marie Humphries, O.S.U., principal of John Cardinal O’Connor School in Irvington, told CNY.  

“Service can be as simple as taking a couple of minutes to pray and also collecting what you can in trying to help others.”

John Cardinal O’Connor School is doing both. On Oct. 15, Sister Jean Marie mailed an art project from each class of a bouquet of tulips with prayerful notes from students. Construction paper to form tulips of different hues. Students wrote their notes of prayer on white paper placed in the tulips.

Two days later, the school began a two-week period of collecting toiletries for people in the Diocese of Venice to be sent in early November, Sister Jean Marie said.

“When you hear about disasters in our world and in our country, you try to take a moment to pray for people as much as you can because prayer does make change,” she said. 

“In terms of doing a toiletry drive, there are little things that you can do. It doesn’t have to be huge amounts of money…It’s important to remember that our neighbors are people around the world, around our nation and not just ourselves.”

Joan Fox, principal of St. Eugene’s in Yonkers, said cards, signs, posters and spiritual bouquets were made for students in the Diocese of Venice. St. Eugene’s middle-school grade students are praying the Rosary, and special intentions are being remembered in morning prayers and monthly school Masses.

“We are remembering, even though a little time has passed, to understand that now is a devastating period for them again as they’re going through and realizing how much they’ve lost,” Mrs. Fox said.

“We really want the students to have an understanding that terrible things can happen, but by praying and using our faith, we are strong and we can survive these things. Understanding that for themselves, but taking that and sharing it with these students who were victims of the hurricanes.”

Mrs. Fox said St. Eugene’s is stepping forward to make a difference in the current school year. The school just raised $2,143 for Coins4CURE for childhood cancer and is starting a drive for the ASPCA, with a focus on care for creation.

“One of the things now that the Covid restrictions have been lifted, we really made an effort this year to build up the community service aspect of the school,” she said.  

The schools’ response followed an email sent to Catholic school families by archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools Michael Deegan, saying that Father John Belmonte, S.J., superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Venice, reported his diocese’s “seven schools, 2,000 students and 200 teachers and principals have been directly and severely impacted.”

“This week, our students across the archdiocese will be creating cards, crafts and spiritual bouquets to express support for their young sisters and brothers in Christ in Florida,” Deegan said. “We also pray that our faculty, staff, and families might consider contributing financially to the rebuilding efforts. We understand the current economic climate has so many of us counting every penny, but to cite the standard line, every little bit counts.

“As the principal of a Catholic school in Manhattan in 2001, I remember with great emotion the outpouring of love and support around the country following the attacks of September 11th. I vividly recall the healing effects of those expressions of love from strangers from far away.”