Catholic Schools Week Celebrates Faith, Knowledge, Service

Maria Hayes Friar News

National Catholic Schools Week was celebrated by schools around Holy Name Province, including St. Francis School in Triangle, Virginia.

The eighth-grade students at St. Francis of Assisi School in Triangle, Va., display banners created for National Catholic Schools Week. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Greene)

Schools affiliated with Holy Name Province ministries proudly showcased their students’ academic excellence and commitment to each other during this year’s Catholic Schools Week. The theme, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focused on three key components of Catholic education.

Schools from New Jersey to Florida began the Jan. 25 to 31 commemoration with an opening liturgy at their respective locations. Students, some wearing their uniforms, participated in the Mass as gift bearers, greeters, readers and band and choir members.

Open houses were held by most of the communities, encouraging local families to learn more about the benefits of a Catholic education. Students also got to spend time with and learn more about the Franciscan friars who staff their parishes.

Franciscan friar Fr. Christopher VanHaight visited students at Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, North Carolina, during National Catholic Schools Week.

Christopher VanHaight brought gifts for students at Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, N.C. (Photo courtesy of Christopher)

Appreciation and Support
At Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, N.C., Christopher VanHaight, OFM, and Charles Miller, OFM, visited classrooms throughout the week with “treats and other surprises,” according to the school’s newsletter. Students also wrote letters of appreciation and support to diocesan seminarians, as well as the administrative, maintenance and parish staff of Immaculate Conception Church.

In Raleigh, N.C., the Franciscan School held a Friar Appreciation Day with special activities to honor the Franciscans at St. Francis Parish. Throughout the week, the school posted photos of students taking “priest selfies” with Steven Patti, OFM, the pastor, along with David McBriar, OFM, and William McConville, OFM.

Further south, Patrick Tuttle, OFM, joined students of St. Anthony of Padua School in Greenville, S.C., who volunteered their time at the parish food pantry. The pantry received a donation from the students, who held a canned food drive to give back to those in need. They also made special cards that were placed in the food bags distributed to those visiting the pantry during the week, according to Susan Cinquemani, a member of the school’s mission advancement team.

Students also participated in a living rosary, with each bead represented by a student. Led by religion teacher Sr. Mary Schifferle, the students stood while their part of the prayer was said by all students and staff members.

In New Jersey, students of St. Mary’s School in Pompton Lakes received visits from Frank Sevola, OFM, the pastor, along with Richard Husted, OFM, and Gonzalo Torres, OFM. The men gave a presentation titled “A Day in the Life of a Friar” to each classroom, according to principal Carol La Salle.

Further south, St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden, N.J., began Catholic Schools Week with a Mass celebrated by pastor Hugh Macsherry, OFM. He invoked St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Thomas Aquinas and other patron saints of schools and education as he blessed Principal Dr. Mary Burke and her staff. Students showed their school pride by submitting essays about Catholic schools, and by decorating their classroom doors. During the week, Karl Koenig, OFM, and Juan Turcios, OFM, shared their vocations with students on Career Day.

At the weekly school Mass on Friday morning, third grade students performed the NSCW 2015 official dance, to the song “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit, featuring vocals from Jess Glynne. The lyrics, “As long as you are with me, there is no place I’d rather be,” seemed especially appropriate to Hugh.

“The students performed the song again at the school awards ceremony, in which students were recognized for their 97 percent attendance,” he noted. “Apparently there is no place that they would rather be! The winner of the essay contest expressed just why that is: ‘While there are many education options, I feel that St. Anthony provides the best. St. Anthony is a place of peace and coming together as a school to get closer to God. Not only are we friends, but we are family.’ St. Anthony of Padua School is, for many students, a second home.”

Students at St. Francis School in Triangle, Va., were busy creating a variety of academic displays, with topics ranging from Hispanic saints to religion faith genealogy. The students also organized several outreach projects, including raising money for St. Francis’s sister parishes in Peru, making blankets for the local ACTS homeless shelter, and collecting food for St. Francis House.

In Florida, Paul Santoro, OFM, organized a week of faith and service for the students of Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, where he is campus minister. The events included recognition of students who have given more than 300 hours of community service, and a talk on vocations to religious life and married life.


St. Francis International School is being honored for its leadership in diversity in Catholic education. Students are pictured here with principal Tobias Harkleroad. (Photo courtesy of Tobias)

History and Leadership
Several of the Province’s schools have an especially long legacy of providing Catholic education to their communities. This year, St. Francis International School is celebrating its 60th anniversary. During Catholic Schools Week, the Catholic Standard shared the story of the eight sisters of Notre Dame de Maur and one lay teacher who founded St. Camillus School, which later became SFIS. The founders were celebrated in the fall at a liturgy offered at the school.

SFIS will be honored in April by the National Catholic Educational Association with the Catherine T. McName, CSJ, award. This is the NCEA’s highest award for “leadership in diversity in Catholic education.” The school will receive the award at the NCEA convention in Orlando, Fla., in April, according to principal Tobias Harkleroad.

Throughout CSW, students around the Province found creative ways to give back to their community: by making cards for the elderly, volunteering at local food pantries and holding food drives, working with veterans and migrants, visiting the homebound, making blankets for homeless shelters, and raising money for sister parishes in foreign countries, pregnancy help centers, and other charities. Santa Fe Catholic High School even held a blood drive, gathering 17 pints.

Academics were also central to this year’s Catholic School Week events. Students participated in spelling bees, science fairs, math competitions, scavenger hunts and essay writing contests.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Information about Holy Name Province parishes can be found in the Our Work section of the HNP website. Below are more photos from Catholic Schools Week.

[print_gllr id=16353]