Giving and Receiving the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus Through Vocare

Spring Semester 2022 of The Word Magazine | Madeline Zukowski, DSHA '11
From the start of the 2021-22 school year, the entire school community was reminded about the importance of the scriptural theme of the year: to be “the goodness and kindness of Jesus” to others, taken from Titus 3:4. As seniors prepared to embark on Vocare, their two-week service immersion experience in March, they found that the theme shaped the way they approached the opportunity and allowed them to learn what it truly means to be good and kind along the way. 
Ellie Toyama, DSHA ’22, stood out in the front section of Fr. Gene’s Help Center in West Allis, waiting to assist those who entered through the doors of the non-profit, which serves those in the Milwaukee community who do not have access to affordable clothing that makes them feel confident and dignified. She soon saw a woman who needed help, but communication among the two of them seemed difficult. Realizing that the woman was hard of hearing, Toyama had to find a way to meet her needs. The solution: communicating with her through sticky notes.

Using her critical thinking skills, and adapting so she could serve her client best, was one of the ways Toyama tried to embody the goodness and kindness of Jesus at her Vocare service site.


Every year, the DSHA community focuses on a scriptural theme which guides all activities and behaviors of individuals both inside and outside of school. During the 2021-22 school year, the theme was borrowed from Titus 3:4 —“Be the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus.” This theme was implemented in every classroom as students and teachers discussed and then wrote down on posters how they were going to be the goodness and kindness to one another. These promises hung in classrooms all year for reference and as reminders. In addition, twice-a-day all-school prayers ended with “Jesus, help me to be Your goodness and kindness,” and the idea was constantly reinforced throughout the building—during assemblies, in co-curricular groups, and everywhere in between.

“Being the goodness and kindness of Jesus starts at home,” said Director of Salvatorian Service Dr. Katie Daily Pickart, DSHA ’84. “And by home, I mean here at DSHA. It’s about paying attention and caring for the other, as well as deconstructing barriers between one another.” Students were encouraged to be the goodness and kindness to one another, but also look for it in each other as well.

Toyama saw the pandemic as a force that had kept her from building connection with her classmates. While the class of 2022 was together in-person during freshman year and some of their sophomore year, they have spent the rest of their high school careers in and out of periods of isolation and precaution. “There were faces I actually didn’t know (in class), and I was surprised,” she said.

However, she noted that the attention given to the scriptural theme of being the goodness and kindness to one another helped her class bond. “There were interactions and friendships formed that I didn’t expect, but we were able to facilitate in the classroom.”


Vocare, Latin for “to call” or “to draw forth,” implemented in 2014, gives the senior class the opportunity to serve in the greater Milwaukee community for two weeks. Instead of attending class, they focus on serving those at their assigned community sites. This year, seniors served at 47 different community organizations, interacting with children, the elderly, those with special needs, or a community organization directly.

At Fr. Gene’s Help Center, Toyama spent the first week of the two-week experience in the back section of the facility sorting and folding donated clothes. She recognized she was making a difference as the clothes were going to someone in need, and she learned that being the goodness and kindness does not have to be flashy or big in nature.

However, she took initiative and asked her supervisor at the site if she could work up front and help clients so she could see where the clothes were going and who they were benefitting. Her supervisor agreed.

“Our clients are the most important people, and the reason why I come to work and why community members come to volunteer,” said Jessica Luebbering, the executive director of Fr. Gene’s Help Center. “When there are opportunities to meet our clients, that’s where the change in perspective happens.”

“At first I was doing behind-the-scenes work, which is important and had to be done,” Toyama said. “I’m glad I got to serve both behind-the-scenes and face-to-face with clients.”

While serving clients, Toyama found it wasn’t always easy to serve those in a different situation from her own. As Pickart said, “Being kind takes courage. It takes courage to reach out to the other.”

That courage and service of clients was easier after practicing the goodness and kindness in school. Toyama noted how she made an effort at school to interact more with her community and be the goodness and kindness to her teachers specifically, since this was her last year at DSHA. This practice in expressing kindness to adults helped her talk and better serve the adult clients, volunteers, and site supervisors at Fr. Gene’s Help Center.

It also helped her see the goodness and kindness in those around her. “The scriptural theme was very evident, not only in the clients I saw and helped, but everyone who works at Fr. Gene’s,” Toyama said. “The volunteers take time out of their days and choose to come here and serve their community. It’s not just about the goodness and kindness that I can give, everyone has their own endless supply of love that they can give.”

“Through the goodness and kindness, you can reach out to people you don’t even know and make a difference in the lives that you might never see again,” she continued. “I wanted that kind of formative experience. Having the scriptural theme in the back of my mind is what pushed me to interact more with clients and really make the most of my experience.”


In between the two-week experience, Toyama, together with her 170 senior classmates who served on Vocare, participated in a reflection day led by faculty and staff, contemplating what it means to serve like Jesus did with humility.

Both Maggie Caraher, DSHA ’22, and Anna Schneider, DSHA ’22, practiced humility at their service sites. Caraher was nervous about Vocare before the experience, fearing that she might feel uncomfortable in certain situations at the Elizabeth Residence, an elderly nursing home. But because she practiced being the goodness and kindness in school, she knew how to act and the importance of being kind outside of school.

“I was aware that this wasn’t about me or how uncomfortable I may feel,” she said. “This was about offering the residents direct kindness and understanding. I am in this place to be the goodness and kindness; I can be the one that offers that.”

Feeling a similar way, Schneider, who served those with special needs at the Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa, found that the goodness and kindness gave her a “set of guidelines” in how to serve with humility.

“Whenever you’re faced with a challenge, you think back to [the goodness and kindness] in your head,” she said. “It serves as a reminder to be constantly present, show up, and love.”


“We absolutely loved having them! They went above and beyond each day and truly loved spending time with our residents. From calling bingo, playing sheepshead, and going out to lunch with residents, to learning Tai Chi and helping with our events, we really appreciate everything they did for us.”
— Lifestyle Enrichment Coordinator of St. Rita’s Square Abby Syverson

“We always have an amazing experience with the DSHA students. They are a tremendous part of our community, and it’s wonderful to have them. The Vocare program allows them to experience a deep dive into our ministry, and we get to see our mission really click with them.”
— Executive Director of Fr. Gene’s Help Center Jessica Luebbering

“The DSHA girls were so great. They jumped right in, and within a day or two they knew all the residents’ names and their interests. They were so helpful, and just so kind to the residents.”
— Lifestyle Enrichment Coordinator of Gables of Germantown Raquel Campanelli


Serving the elderly at:
Gables of Germantown
› Heritage Place
› St. Rita Square
› Village Point Commons
› Care-Age of Brookfield
› Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
› Congregational Home
› Elizabeth Residence Bayside
› Luther Manor
› Milwaukee Catholic Home
› St. Camillus

Serving children at:
Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
› Bruce Guadalupe Community School
› Bryant Elementary School
› Engleburg Elementary School
› Kluge Elementary School
› Messmer St. Rose School
› Mother of Good Counsel School
› Nativity Jesuit Academy
› Next Door Foundation
› Northwest Catholic School
› Notre Dame School of Milwaukee
› Prince of Peace School
› St. Anthony’s School
› St. Catherine School
› St. Charles Borromeo Parish School
› St. John Paul II Catholic School
› St. Josaphat Parish School
› St. Margaret Mary School
› St. Thomas Aquinas Academy
› Starms Early Childhood Education

Serving individuals with special needs at:
Carmelite Ministry of St. Teresa
› Curative Care Network
› St. Coletta Day School
› Vision Forward Association

Serving community organizations:
Fr. Gene’s Help Center
› Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin
› Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores in Wauwatosa and Greenfield
› House of Peace/Capuchin Community Services
› Neighborhood House of Milwaukee
› Open Door Café/Cathedral of St. John
› St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care
› St. Francis of Assisi Church
› The Cathedral Center
› United Community Center
› Women’s Care Center
    • Ellie Toyama, DSHA '22, helps a client find clothing at Fr. Gene's Help Center.

    • Pictured left to right are Ava Bradd, DSHA '22, and Ellie Toyama, DSHA '22.

    • Maggie Caraher, DSHA '22, dances with a resident at the Elizabeth Residence.


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