Silver Spring School’s Mission Fair Raises Money for Tokyo Chapel

Rebecca Doel Around the Province

SILVER SPRING, Md. — As the academic year drew to a close at St. Francis International School last month, students, parents and faculty danced, ate and celebrated at the Mission Fair.

“The fair highlights our school’s commitment to service, diversity, and learning through a cross-curricular event,” said principal Tobias Harkleroad. He described the June 1 event as the “capstone” of the 2010-2011 school year.

Funds raised at the Mission Fair — a total of $2,264 — will be sent to benefit the Franciscan Chapel Center in Tokyo, where Russell Becker, OFM, is pastor. Donations will be used in the relief efforts of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Though it was the first Mission Fair for St. Francis International School, its history dates back nearly 40 years, when the event began at St. Mark’s School in Hyattsville, Md., the school that merged with St. Camillus School last year to become the international school.

At the fair, students wear clothes from their countries of origin and parents provide native foods. According to Harkleroad, 68 percent of the parents of the school’s 440 students are immigrants.

Michael Johnson, OFM, pastor of St. Camillus Church, celebrated Mass for the Mission Fair participants. In his homily, he preached about his own missionary experience as a student friar in Bolivia. A video of the homily is available on St. Francis International School’s YouTube channel.

The following day, the school held its first commencement exercises, graduating 39 eighth-grade students at a ceremony at St. Camillus Church.

During his homily at the Mass prior to the graduation ceremony, Fr. John Dillon, pastor of St. Mark’s Church, told graduates how proud he and Michael are of them.

“I offer you one piece of advice,” he said. “Make sure you cultivate a friendship with Jesus.”

Both events were featured in The Maryland Gazette and the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.