NEW YORK — Schools throughout the Province celebrated Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, based around the theme “Dividends for Life: Faith, Knowledge, Discipline, Morals.”
Established in 1974, the week celebrates the role that Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the United States play in providing value-added education. It also celebrates the high standards of excellence and the quality of education available in Catholic schools.
This year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring the contributions of Catholic schools.
From the New York area to Florida, friars commemorated Catholic Schools Week with teachers, students and other members of their communities.
Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J., said the parish marked the week with a program that illustrated “Dividends for Life: In Our Parish, In Our Community, In Our Nation, In Our Students, In Our Faculty, Staff and Volunteers.” The program included open houses, faculty and student appreciation, prayer service, a parent-student volleyball game, and pasta dinner. In addition, students served as lectors at Sunday liturgies, and wrote letters to the new governor of New Jersey.
In nearby Butler, the community of St. Anthony School (shown in rear photo) hosted a variety of events including a book fair, a geography bee, an assembly to express gratitude to businesses, groups and individuals who assist the school, and a teacher appreciation day. A dance organized by the St. Anthony Home-School Association concluded the week. John Leonard, OFM, said information is available on the school’s Web site.
Assumption School in Wood-Ridge, where Brian Cullinane, OFM, is the pastor, started the week with an open house, where not only teachers but Smartboards (computerized blackboards) informed visitors of the school’s many programs.
Schoolchildren also participated in Mass, followed by the Prayer Buddies program, where students unite for sharing. A math and science fair, career day, and grandparents day were also held, and students participated in activities promoting healthy eating. Social activities rounded out the week, including student and teacher appreciation days and a faculty Jeopardy competition, where students cheered for their favorite teachers.
St. Anthony of Padua School in Camden held a variety of programs including a clothing drive, a career day, a volunteer tea and a “dividends in our heritage” day during which students described an item related to their family heritage.
The week at St. Paul School, Wilmington, Del., included “Crazy Hat and Sock Day,” “Inside Out Day,” and “Pajama Day,” giving students an opportunity to show their creative spirit in their clothing. They also participated in a “Knowledge Bowl Competition,” which was based loosely on the popular TV game show Jeopardy. The week also included an open house and a visit from Bishop Fran Malooly, who took student questions.
The students asked him what his favorite food was, his age, if he liked being a bishop, and if he wanted to be pope, said pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM. The week closed with a prayer service honoring the memory of Bishop Michael Saltarelli.
“After the prayer service, principal Alexandria Cirko challenged students, parents and faculty,” said Todd, regarding the school’s serious financial problems. “She said if we can raise $25,000 through fundraisers and programs before the end of the year, she would shave her head into a Mohawk cut. Needless to say, the students were very enthusiastic. The principal tried her best to get me to have my head shaved, too. I told her I’d have to think about that. Perhaps we can come up with another idea for me.”
Students did their best during the week to raise money by contributing pennies.
The school of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., where Mark Reamer, OFM, is pastor, celebrated similarly, emphasizing service to others.
Morning prayers, especially remembering students and teachers, were given, and a parade of students representing all Catholic schools in the diocese took place. Emmet Murphy, OFM, led a “living rosary,” with students and staff representing the beads. A community Mass recognized the school’s stewards.
Eighth-grade students went to Our Lady of the Rosary, a nearby rural parish with a large Hispanic and seasonal population, to do community service around the grounds. Other students, in collaboration with the St. Francis of Assisi’s Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace, wrote letters to inmates, made cards and placemats for senior citizens, and filled bags with toiletry articles for the local Catholic Parish Outreach ministry and women’s shelters.
In addition, students wore their uniforms to weekend Masses.
The school at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C., where Patrick Tuttle, OFM, is pastor, submitted an opinion article to the local newspaper, written by school principal Sr. Catherine Noecker. Sr. Catherine said that treating students respectfully is one of the ways Catholic schools distinguish themselves.
She wrote: “Respect is evident in the way each person is greeted when they arrive at school. It is nurtured in our students and parents from Day 1 when they learn that they will always receive respect as long as they maintain a respectful attitude — toward others and of themselves.” The piece appeared in the Feb. 4 issue of The Greenville News.
Paul Santoro, OFM, campus minister at Santa Fe Catholic School in Lakeland, Fla., a non-Province school, also reported in.
He said that students, faculty and staff collected 400 pounds of food in a food drive, which was then donated to the Catholic Charities Food Bank. Seniors also made 180 sandwiches for Talbot House, a local homeless shelter, while others wrote letters of encouragement to local nursing home residents and notes of gratitude to Santa Fe supporters.
At Mass, 20 students who have volunteered more than 200 hours of service to the community were recognized. On one day, students wore red, white or blue shirts to celebrate U.S. pride. To end the week, Paul assisted students in serving an Italian meal to faculty and staff as a measure of their appreciation.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.