by Moira Cullings
Kansas City, Kan. — The kindergarten class of Christ the King School here had something special to contribute to the parish’s all-school Mass on March 9.
Not only were they responsible for planning the Mass and proclaiming the readings, but they also brought the work of their own little hands to the Lord’s table.
During the offertory procession, one by one, each child walked down the center church aisle and gently placed a handmade blanket on the altar.
“We made them for sick kids that can’t go to school,” explained Elijah Clark, one of the school’s 22 kindergartners.
“And kids that are at the hospital that are really, really sick,” added Mi’Nia Barksdale-Bey, Elijah’s classmate.
Together, the class made 22 prayer tie blankets for children at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, a service project that was initiated by their teacher, Caroline Strenk.
“When my sister had cancer — she’s now [been] in remission for about six months — she received a prayer blanket when she was in the hospital,” said Strenk.
Knowing how powerful the gift was for her sister moved Strenk to offer this service opportunity to her own students.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to help the kids learn the corporal works of mercy this year. One of them is to comfort the sick,” she said.
Strenk also used the occasion to teach the children about the importance of almsgiving during Lent, as well as to help them develop fine motor skills.
“This was our first time [making blankets],” said Aidien Gardner, one of Strenk’s kindergartners. “Some of us didn’t know how to do it, so we just prayed.”
“And then other people [who had trouble at first] learned how to make them because we kept trying and trying,” said Elijah.
Father Mark Mertes, pastor at Christ the King, saw this as a unique opportunity for the kids, who attend a school that offers a variety of service projects each year.
“We’ve had lots of excellent service projects here at Christ the King,” said Father Mertes, “but for the kindergarten class to put this one together is just plain fun. Everyone can connect with their blanket!”
“I got to watch them bring up their blankets during the offertory procession,” he continued, “and they registered many different emotions as they came forward — sort of like life.”
For the students, making the blankets was just as fun as walking them down the aisle at Mass. Throughout the process, they joyfully sang prayers for the children who would soon receive their gifts.
“We were praying for the kids to get better,” said Elijah.
“That kind of brought a community aspect into the classroom,” said Strenk. “And they had a lot of fun while they did it. It was just an enjoyable experience.”
“It made me feel great,” said Brooklynn Meisenzahl, another one of Strenk’s kindergartners.
Brooklynn and her classmates were excited to bring comfort to other kids who don’t have the chance to go to school every day.
“I hope it helps them feel better,” said Mi’Nia.
“And I hope it helps them feel happy,” added Aidien.
“Children intuitively understand that when one of us is hurting and in need, all of us are hurting and in need,” said Father Mertes. “I imagine that is why Jesus says we should be like children.”
Both Father Mertes and Strenk noted that we are never too young to serve. Strenk even hopes the lessons the children learned from this project will stick with them throughout their lives.
“I really try to instill in them service, and giving without having to receive something,” she said.
“I think our blankets are going to bring a lot of comfort to people,” she later continued, noting how pleased she is with her class.
“[The kids] knew that they were giving back and helping people,” she said. “They understood the act of service, and what we were doing got bigger than what I expected and what we had planned for.
“I am very proud of what they did.”