Students clean graves, honor the dead

Students clean the headstones of veterans graves at Daytona Memorial Park, Feb. 11, 2023, as part of a service project and corporal work of mercy. COURTESY

DAYTONA  |  In early February, Basilica School of St. Paul and Father Lopez Catholic High School students in Daytona gathered to volunteer with the VFW Auxiliary at Daytona Memorial Cemetery.

Anne Bibik, the basilica school’s religion teacher, said the school often partners with the auxiliary throughout the year. The day began with prayer, then 14 students from the Basilica School of St. Paul and five from Father Lopez cleaned more than 100 headstones.

Bibik said students learned about the corporal and spiritual works of mercy prior to the service project. She added often there are no family members to take care of the gravestones, which made this corporal work of mercy even more important.

“We work a lot with the veterans and this is the first year they reached out to us to do the grave beautification,” she said. “It’s important to know that when we do certain things, even if it’s just beautifying a garden, it’s important to help out.”

Seventh-grader Dominica said the experience made her feel good about serving her community. “It made me feel like a real disciple and doing what Jesus has called me to do,” she said, “and I did something really good for the community.”

Eighth-grader Vanessa appreciated how the project was “so peaceful and quiet.” “It made me feel like I was taking time off to talk with God,” she said. “I felt like I actually had time to think.”

For Kaylee, cleaning the veterans’ headstones was a proud moment. “They died for me, so the least I can do is make it clean.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, March 3, 2023