From India to America: Many Cultures, One Church. Lively Discussions for Fourth Graders of Sts. Philip and James School

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How do you teach compassion to students? How do you model empathy and understanding? At Sts. Philip and James school, Mrs. Jennifer Brown opted to do it by way of the fun, exciting book “Save Me a Seat” which tells the story of a young boy named Ravi who moved from India to the United States. Ravi meets a classmate Joe, who seems different in many ways, except they share a common problem: a bully. (You get the feeling that this story moves quickly, right?)

Caption: Fourth Grade Teacher Jennifer Brown with her students and Fr. Joe Lobo, SSPJ Associate Pastor.

By itself, the book may not be written as an overtly Christian story. But students flip through its pages and find themselves in the story itself. The longing to be accepted, loved, and how can we be better friends to one another? These are universal themes in growing up.

A treat for the students at SSPJ was that their associate Pastor, Father Joe Lobo, SSPJ is in fact from India. Fr. Joe was born in South West India in a town called Mangalore (see on map). He completed all of his studies in India and served as a priest in the Diocese of Mangalore for 5 years. At the age of 34, Fr. Joe came to the United States and has been serving in the Diocese of Rockville Centre for the past 13 years. He was the perfect candidate to field questions from a classroom of inquisitive fourth graders!

Students had questions about food, music, culture, and traditions in India. Fr. Joe drew from his own childhood and brought life to the fictitious character of Ravi from the book.

In the classroom, Fr. Joe shared that coming to the United States has been a wonderful opportunity and a tremendous blessing for him. He has been able to grow pastorally, spiritually and professionally. By living in both cultures, Fr. Joe has seen how the United States is very welcoming and open-minded about learning about other cultures.

In particular, the Catholic Church in America is truly universal. Fr. Joe explained that Catholic schools are rich and diverse, places children can be open and accepting. Because we share a common faith, cultural differences can be better understood and celebrated.

In Fr. Joe’s words, “We are all children of God, we are called to live as brothers and sisters no matter where we come from. Our goal is to build a better world filled with love, unity, and peace.”

Students Joe and Ravi may be different, but they share a common problem. Can they work together and make it through a tough week?

About Sts. Philip and James School in St. James, New York

SSPJ has educated generations of children for nearly 100 years. The school integrates the Gospel message with the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development of their students, thus enabling them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Curious about the school? Contact Principal Diane Anderson for a private tour of the school. danderson@sspjschool.net.

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