What are your holy moments?

St. Mary Catholic School 8th-grader, Riley’s “Holy Moment” makes a difference. Riley’s car wash enabled the purchase of much needed toys and games for adolescents at Devereaux Advanced Behavioral Health. THe project is the result of a religion assignment. (COURTESY)

ROCKLEDGE | For the past two years, St. Mary Catholic School religion teacher, Nancy Potchka, has assigned 8th graders a religion project called “My Holy Moments”. The idea came to her after reading a book by Matthew Kelly, which spoke of how “one holy moment can change people’s lives.” This year, one student’s project touched more lives than ever imagined.

Potchka designed the project around the Corporal Works of Mercy. When Riley received the assignment, she had no idea where to begin. “My Holy Moments” requires students to research a group or organization in need and then to formulate a plan of service.

With the help of her family, Riley decided to do a car wash to raise funds for the children at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, a local center that provides help to adolescents facing significant emotional, behavioral, and developmental challenges. Due to COVID-19, the children needed toys, games and crafts to keep them busy. As a person with Down syndrome, Riley could relate and felt compelled to help. To date, she has raised $750 and more is still coming in.

Riley’s mother, Jennifer, realized, “The magnitude of the project wasn’t lost on (Riley). She got that it wasn’t about her. That it was about serving Christ and being His hands and feet. As she stuffed the cart, she never once thought, ‘I want this for Christmas.’ It was her joy to help other kids.”

When they got into their car after delivering the items to a happy and surprised staff, Jennifer looked over and saw Riley with a wide grin on her face. “I really enjoyed helping the kids get these games, and now, they will have some because of my religion project!” Riley said. It’s hard not to get teary-eyed,” said Jennifer, who noted Riley was the first child with Down syndrome to ever attend St. Mary’s.

With joy and gratitude in her voice, Jennifer said, “It was profound because I was told in the hospital (Riley’s) IQ would never go above 70; to set the bar low… I come to these moments – kindergarten graduation, her First Holy Communion, Confirmation and now eighth graduation… I just marvel at the profundity of that achievement.”

By Maria Del Amo and Glenda Meekins, special to the Florida Catholic December 08, 2020