By Lennon Audrain

For us Catholics, the word discernment and vocation go hand in hand. You know, we’re suppose to discern a vocation religious life– one of the Catholic hoods. Vocations to the priesthood, sisterhood, brotherhood, monkhood? All of those Catholic hoods, And while we as Catholics are always pushing youth to discern a vocation so much, the eighth graders at St. Francis Xavier are already in the process of discerning one, and most already have. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocis” which means “voice” and “vocare” which means “to call.” (And while I take Latin, I still googled “root word of vocation” just to be certain, because in Latin, you can never be certain. Gratias Magistrae.) The vocations that these eighth graders are pursuing are not to Catholic hoods, but to social injustice, and Social-Injustice-hood just doesn’t have the ring that the others do. Instead of the SIH (nope, that doesn’t work either), St. Francis calls their community of work for Christ “The Arrupe Project.”

The Arrupe Project at St. Francis is in its sixth year and has helped hundreds of graduates discern and help support causes that are most meaningful to them. “It starts in seventh grade, when students sell handmade crafts in the Arrupe Marketplace. It’s out in our school courtyard and after mass,” says St. Francis Campus Minister Deborah Westerfield. “Then, in eighth grade, students must organize a fundraising event and setup the whole thing. The fundraisers support the causes and organizations that students have discerned are most meaningful to them. The funds that they make from the event are then used to go purchase whatever the cause or organization is in need of, personally delivering it to them and more often than not, meeting who is being benefited by their works.”

The Project is centered around the Corporal Works of Mercy, Matthew 25, Discernment, and Social Injustice. St. Francis helps students discern what they will be working with by having Catholic Charities come and speak to all of the eighth graders. “It helps us live out our mission of being ‘Kids for Others’ and gives us responsibilities and meaningful work to pursue, turning us into ‘Men and Women for Others’,” says Bridget, an eighth grader at St. Francis. Bridget partnered with Catholic Charities “Dignity Diversion” and will be hosting a Zumba Class or Boot Camp to raise funds to help sex-trafficed girls and women.

And while the project is presented to eighth graders in November, it took some of the students some time to discern their project. Sofia, an eighth grader, said it took a little over two weeks for her to decide what she would do, but her teachers were always there to help her. “The teachers are our biggest support system. They motivate us, relate this project back to our faith, and remind us that prayer always helps,” she says. Sofia will be hosting a tennis clinic to help support the Ronald McDonald House. “I can help, and I’m going to help,” she says.

Alexya, an eighth grader, says that it’s helping her grow in her faith. “We actually get to help people. It helps us, not just them. We know what it’s like to be with marginalized people.” She will be partnering with Catholic Charities West Side Early Head Start by sponsoring a movie night. Alexya will thank every attendee individually and hand out cards.

Although the focus of the Arrupe Project is on helping those in need now, Leandro, another participant of the Arrupe Project, says that it’s more than just a focus on now. “The project is molding us into leaders. Its urging us to do what we thought we couldn’t. We want to raise awareness and see change within our generation.” Leandro will be working with Catholic Charities Home for Heroes to help Veterans buy needed supplies, like toiletries, by sponsoring a Pay to Play Homerun Derby. He love baseball, and says that’s the reason he’s sponsoring the Derby. “The question really is, how can I connect my passions to make the world a better place?”

The Arrupe Project is now a diocesan model and is hoping to be implemented into other schools, public and private alike. To help support the Arrupe Project and St. Francis’ mission of making “Kids for Others,” visit or by visting and donating to school code {number}.