Respect for the dignity of each person as created by God is central to the teachings of Saint Benedict and serves as the cornerstone of the values that are fostered throughout our school community.
The service program at St. Anselm's Abbey School is uniquely suited to foster the values of a Benedictine education. As Saint Benedict advises in his Rule, “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’ (Mt 25:35).” Feeding the hungry in local soup kitchens and visiting children or the aged and infirm at area hospitals are only a few of the ways in which our students put into practice the Gospel message of the Beatitudes.
Christian Service Program
For over 30 years now, St. Anselm’s Abbey School has had in place a unique service program for all Fifth and Sixth Form students. Established in the early 1980s, the program grew out of reflection within the faculty and consultation among the administration. We looked at many factors that affected our students: the great distance most of them travel each day to and from school, the very heavy demands of their academic program, and the limited after-school time they had due to the unusually large percentage of students involved in athletics or other extra-curricular programs after school. The decision was made to create a “release time” program during the school week. Thus every Tuesday morning after one or two academic classes all juniors and seniors leave campus for service sites around the area where they work until noon, returning to campus for afternoon classes and activities. Students choose sites where the work has an interest for them – tutoring, assisting the elderly or disabled, food pantry manual work etc. Faculty members in school vans provide transport to and from campus, or students with permission of parents may drive to the sites in their own cars.
Most schools with service programs require a defined number of service hours to be performed at sites located by the students or their parents and on their own time. We at St. Anselm’s view the use of class hours and our students’ regular presence at the sites was a valuable way of witnessing to our commitment to importance of community service education. We have also found that the service sites come to rely of the regular arrival on Tuesdays of “the Abbey guys” to plan their own work distribution internally.
Our juniors and seniors work at 11 agency locations, and some are engaged in an environmental stewardship project here on the school and abbey grounds. Students are engaged in tutoring younger students at St. Anthony Catholic School, our local parochial school in Brookland, Maury Elementary School, a D.C. public school on Capitol Hill, and at Potomac Lighthouse Public Charter School here in our neighborhood. Some students work with classroom teachers and aides at the Kennedy School, assisting developmentally challenged young people. Several of our students who are studying Spanish work at the Spanish Education and Development Center in the Petworth area, assisting classroom teachers. For years, we have had students working at the nearby St. Ann’s Center for Youth, Children, and Families, socializing with pre-school boys and girls who have almost no other male presence in their lives. The elderly and disabled are served at the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Providence Hospital, where the students socialize with residents and assist the staff. A group of boys join with other volunteers at Christian Community Group Homes, working with the elderly in their homes with house and yard work, painting, and repairs. We have boys working at two neighborhood food banks, Food and Friends, and Capital Area Food Bank. Finally, we also have students who work at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as tour guides and providing assistance to visitors at the welcome desk at this Catholic pilgrimage site.
We hold periodic reflection sessions for the students in the program to share experiences and to reflect with one another on the value to those they serve and to themselves from participation in the program.
Appalachia Service Project
Each summer, a group of Upper School students travels to Central Appalachia to take part in the Appalachia Service Project, a national effort that helps hundreds of families annually across five states. St. Anselm's first took part in ASP in 2011, and a group has returned each summer since then to construct and repair homes for needy, disabled, and elderly residents in this underserved area of the country.
ASP trips are coordinated by our Campus Ministry office with significant help from parents, faculty, and alumni. Each year, several recent alumni serve as team leaders for the trip along with at least one teacher from St. Anselm's. If you are interested in learning more about the Appalachia Service Project at St. Anselm's, or if you may be interested in serving as a leader, contact school chaplain Fr. Michael Hall, OSB, '56.