Community service is hallmark of Catholic schools


EAST PROVIDENCE - The “Chefs of East Bay” traded calculators and mouse pads for frying pans and mixing spoons several times during the summer to whip up some mouthwatering delicacies for the clients and staff of Refocus, a local nonprofit Providence human service agency that serves adults with different physical and developmental needs.

The 15 young talented “chefs” are members of the Cooking Club at St. Mary Academy-Bay View. The young women are learning their way around the kitchen and support the mission of the Sisters of Mercy to serve God’s people, especially those less fortunate.

Margaret Traficante, chair of the Mathematics Department, and Pamela Farmer, a world language teacher, serve as the three year-old club’s moderators. Both women share the students’ appreciation for good food and love of cooking.

According to Farmer, the young cooks began their culinary journey by preparing salads, soups and simple desserts, such as cookies.

“We started teaching the girls to cook and they were so good, that we started creating meals,” said Farmer. “We try to get them to experiment with recipes.”

For a recent Staff Appreciation Day celebration held at Refocus, the students and their teachers prepared a meal for 80 people that included pasta primavera made with vegetables grown in the center’s garden, blackened chicken, garlic bread and ice cream sundaes topped with homemade hot fudge sauce.

“This is our Mercy mission,” said Farmer, adding that the young chefs sharpen their culinary skills on Friday afternoons when school is in session. The students pay a modest fee that helps defray the cost of ingredients.

Mercy Sister Norma Fleming, the retired principal of the elementary school at St. Mary Academy – Bay View and an honorary member of the “Chefs of East Bay” praised the chefs for their commitment to performing community service.

“I’m impressed that they’ve given so much time out of their summer vacation to help people who are less fortunate,” she said.

Giana Rendine, 17, a parishioner of St. Rocco Church, Johnston, noted that membership in the cooking club lets her share her passion with family, friends and other members of the community.

“It makes me feel good to do things for other people,” she said.

Community service is also an important component of the education that students receive at Bishop Hendricken High School, Warwick, where eight students accompanied by three faculty members traveled to Bonita Springs, Fla., and volunteered at a day camp conducted by St. Leo Parish for underprivileged children.

“The whole service program is aimed at opening the eyes of our young men at Hendricken to a different reality,” said Thomas Gambardella, director of campus ministry, noting that service trips to Peru and Kentucky, as well as opportunities to serve locally, broaden students’ horizons and make them aware of the plight of those less fortunate.

“We are very blessed in Warwick, Rhode Island,” he emphasized.

Michael Pecchia, a junior and a parishioner of St. Peter Church, Warwick, enjoyed the service trip and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the 40 children whose parents are migrant farm workers.

The Hendricken volunteers engaged the campers in various sports activities, watched movies and served as positive role models during their two-week stay in the Sunshine State.

“It was just different to see that everyone doesn’t have what we have and they are still happy,” Pecchia said.