Forming the Future: Senior class members minister to their peers at Cardinal Spellman High

BROCKTON -- The senior campus ministry room of Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton contains a PlayStation 4, a mini fridge, a giant Connect 4 set, and a poster depicting Jesus Christ's "Faithbook" profile (he has 2 billion friends and is a member of Red Sox Nation).

More importantly, it contains Cardinal Spellman's campus ministry leaders, who guide the school's worship and philanthropic efforts alongside the rest of the senior class.

Cardinal Spellman Dean of Students and Director of Campus Ministry Jason Deramo said that the room is a place where students can "chill out" and be more comfortable as they communicate and work on projects.

"Friendships are made and relationships are formed here," added Lucy LaCara, a member of the Team Mercy ministry group.

On Nov. 21, the senior class's five ministry groups -- Team Mercy, Prayer Posse, Holy Heroes, Lifeguard, and God Squad -- helped celebrate a Thanksgiving Mass in the school's chapel. During Mass, members of God Squad serve as lectors and Eucharistic ministers, and lead students in prayer, singing, and choreographed routines. (They go to every freshman classroom to teach the routines to new students).

Matt O'Donnell, quarterback of the school's Cardinals football team, said that he joined God Squad because he "thought it would be pretty cool."

"There's nothing closer to God than giving God to other people," he said. "It definitely helped out with my leadership skills, on the field and with Jesus."

Cardinal Spellman's senior campus ministry program began in 1985 and has existed in its current form since 2010. Each ministry group is made up of 20 to 25 students with unique responsibilities, meant to replicate the kind of ministry that can be found in a parish community.

"That really made the ministries come alive," Deramo said. "One of the benefits of senior ministry is that everyone's a part of it."

Some kids love being part of something greater than themselves, while others have a lifelong commitment to faith and a willingness to give back.

"They're all working for the same purpose," he said.

In junior year, students fill out a questionnaire about their strengths and weaknesses in church and the classroom. Based on their answers, they are sorted into one of the five ministry groups.

"It's a great way to step up in the Spellman community," said Ryan Kennedy, a member of Holy Heroes. "As an underclassman, you see all the ministries and you think of which one you want to be in. It's really cool to get to the point that you're leading all the Masses, the prayer retreats."

Holy Heroes hosts retreats for the students and senior classes, an annual Veterans Day prayer service, and a monthly mediation gathering in the school chapel called That Prayer Thing.

"It's a day dedicated to prayer, but also bonding with each other and making connections, whether it's spiritually or socially," said Holy Heroes member Emily Larue.

Members of Team Mercy go to Holy Ghost Parish in Whitman for its weekly healing services, laying hands on the sick. Members of Prayer Posse lead monthly adoration at the school, as well as freshman and sophomore retreats. Prayer Posse's slogan is "Hallelujah Holla Back."

"Some of us will use this space as a nice place to reflect and talk and share our experiences and be open with each other," said Henok Jones of Prayer Posse. "I think it was a good bonding experience, just hearing how people felt. I learned a lot of things that I didn't know about people."

Lifeguard hosts two blood drives each year, and organizes an annual walk to raise money for breast cancer research. This Thanksgiving, Lifeguard students made 35 baskets of food, napkins, and other dinner essentials for families in need. They worked in collaboration with the Easton-based ministry My Brother's Keeper, which provides food and furniture to those in need.

"It's a great feeling of accomplishment," said Lifeguard member Matthew Grzybinski, "and I feel like I'm really giving back to the community. I know all the work that we do is going to help people."

Larue said that through campus ministry, she has discovered that there is much more to learn in life than what's in her textbooks.

"Ministry itself allows the students to learn from their peers to an extent," she said, "and I feel like by knowing our community a little bit better, it not only helps us to grow in our faith altogether, but at the end of the day, we're making stronger bonds that are going to prepare us well for the future."