Salesianum will have its first Christmas lunch Monday from noon to 3 p.m.

Salesianum to host 1st community Christmas lunch Monday

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Culture

Salesianum will have its first Christmas lunch Monday from noon to 3 p.m.

Salesianum will have its first Christmas lunch Monday from noon to 3 p.m.

A senior from Wilmington’s Salesianum School strongly believed that no one should spend Christmas alone. 

Lucky for him, his school community shared that same belief and rallied behind him to raise $30,000 to host its first annual Christmas Day lunch.

On Monday – Christmas – Salesianum will open its doors from noon to 3 p.m., welcoming residents from numerous Wilmington Housing Authority locations for an afternoon filled with food, song and cheer. 

“Since I was little, homelessness and helping people that don’t have a lot is something I always kind of dragged myself towards,” said John Casale, the student who created and organized the event. “It was just something I’ve always been passionate about.”

John Casale

John Casale

More than 100 Wilmington Housing Authority residents and hundreds of Salesianum students, families, alumni and friends are expected to attend the lunch.

“The Wilmington Housing Authority is grateful for the support received and partnership with the students and administration of Salesianum High School,” said Ray Fitzgerald, executive director of the agency. “The students involved in this effort should be commended. Their commitment to others and support for our elders is an amazing thing to behold. We hope this historic partnership will continue to grow.”  

Casale said he’s had the idea for more than a year, and he’s always inspired seeing the work of other Salesianum students and the work of nonprofits in Wilmington who help those in unfortunate circumstances. 

RELATED: SALSTHON smashes fundraising goal: $243,791 to help children

He emailed Sallies’ principal, the Rev. Chris Beretta last summer.

“I told him I just wanted to talk to him,” Casale said. “At first he was like, ‘Is everything alright?’ And I said, yeah, I just want to come in and talk.

When they met Casale told Beretta he wanted to have a fundraiser and donate to the Ministry of Caring for homelessness. 

The two came to a consensus that anyone or any school could do, but they wanted to try to do something bigger.

Beretta told Casale about the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, which was founded in 1968 under the leadership of Andrea Riccardi, an Italian historian, professor, politician and activist.

It does a lot of social justice, serves the poor, and advocates for peace, Beretta said.

That includes saying the Church’s evening prayer together daily as a stimulus for lending assistance to a whole spectrum of needy persons: lonely and non-self-sufficient elderly, immigrants and homeless people, terminally ill and HIV/AIDS patients, children at risk of deviance and marginalization, nomads and the physically and mentally handicapped, drug addicts, victims of war and prisoners.

“They had started this program where they would make sure on Christmas Day that local people, some not even poor, just those who had no family or had no one to spend the day with, would have a place to spend the day with others,” Beretta said. “The idea was that nobody eats alone on Christmas.”

It started small, but has grown, and the community’s idea has spread to countries and neighborhoods across the globe.

To help expand the impact of this event beyond those who are able to attend, additional food items and donations will be provided to Wilmington’s St. Patrick’s Center.

“We had a $10,000 goal,” Casale said. “I actually had to do some arguing. They put $10,000 on the website, and I was like ‘Put $25k in there we’ll get to it’ and then they’re like, ‘We want to make it a reachable goal,’ and we ended up raising $30,000.”

Casale said the way the school quickly rallies behind an idea or good cause speaks to the brotherhood of Salesianum – an all-boys Catholic high school.

“I know everyone says it and it’s almost like it comes to a point where it’s like corny or it’s cringy or whatever you want to say, but brotherhood is real and there’s just an incredible amount of support you have,” Casale said. “I try to tell underclassmen there, because people come up to me and ask me how I did it, and I tell them I didn’t do anything. You don’t have any other school with teachers that are willing to come in on weekends and help you out or go out of their way to do all these special things.”

Anyone can come join the lunch and volunteer to serve food, Casale and Beretta said.

Beretta expected the event to be like a big family dinner. 

“We’ve made it really clear that it’s not going to be like volunteering in a soup kitchen,” he said. “We want people to come in, help serve, but we’re all going to sit down together and we’ll know if it works if it’s half Sallies families and half local residents sitting down and eating together. It isn’t just the food. It’s more like let’s build a stronger community here, and what better way to do that.”

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