St. Augustine Prep
School is located in rural south central New Jersey with students
coming from six different counties. Many students are financially
privileged and have little or no experience of inner city life.
Four years ago, during a faculty meeting, Fr.
Paul, the school’s president, asked the faculty if anyone had any
ideas that could motivate the sophomores in the importance of helping
others especially those less fortunate than themselves. Brother
David Graber, M.SS.CC., a member of the faculty who resides
with the Camden Community of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus and Mary, suggested a weeklong program that would allow
the students to live and work in inner city Camden, New Jersey.
Camden ranks as one of the top three of the poorest cities in the
entire nation. The Missionaries have had a presence at Our
Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parishes in Camden since
The parish made their church hall available as
living quarters for the project and the prep school's crew team
donated $1,000 to purchase bunk beds for the students. The
sophomores, all boys, come in four groups of 30 students at a time,
led by Brother David and one other teacher. Now in its third
full year, the program is called Metanoia Week.
Metanoia is a Greek word, which means to have a change of heart.
At the end of the week, it is hoped that the students will, in fact,
have a change of heart in their understanding of the difficulties
of the poor.
Upon arrival into the city, the students are divided into "families"
of four. A brief outline of the difficulties that a poor family
experiences is given and then the students are taken to a food market
where each family only has $12 to spend on their food for all three
meals the next day. Upon returning from the store they put
all of the food out on the floor and discuss what they purchased.
A lot of hot dogs, noodles, and chips with few, if any, fresh fruits
and vegetables are purchased. The students must prepare and
ration their food out for three meals for that first full day.
morning after a “family” leads the group in morning prayer and has
breakfast, they break into modules and depart to many sites throughout
the city to work. There are five Catholic schools in the city
where they assist teachers in math and reading tutoring, grading
papers, and playing with the kids during recess. Another popular
module is assisting at two child day care centers. Since many
children in Camden lack a male role model at home, the sophomores
become instant heroes and the very little children love to be held
and read to during the daylong visits. Other areas where the
students work are the South Jersey Food Bank, sorting food; Public
Works, where students assist crews in cleaning trash from alleys,
abandoned houses, and vacant fields; and Frank’s
Place, a half-way house operated by a local Lutheran
Church. This is the most shocking
place to work for the boys since
nearly all of the “clients” are
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