From New Jersey to Georgia, ministries affiliated with Holy Name Province celebrated Catholic Schools Week earlier this month. Focusing on the theme “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” schools commemorated the Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 event with Masses, open houses, and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and the community at large.
In New Jersey, students at St. Mary’s School in Pompton Lakes participated in a week of activities that honored their community, teachers, talents, and commitment to service, according to Gonzalo Torres, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish.
“Our liturgy on Monday, prepared by our first grade, was a wonderful opportunity to bring our school community together to celebrate the sacraments and pray as a family,” said Carol La Salle, principal. “Activities such as the history bee and the student museum highlighted the academic talents of our students, while the ‘Hoops for Heart’ and ‘Jump Rope for Heart’ events demonstrated their commitment to service.”
“In Catholic schools, we are all learners, servants, and leaders,” La Salle added. “These shared qualities are what make Catholic schools work and succeed.”
Further south, Christ the King Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., began Catholic Schools Week on Jan. 30 with a Mass celebrated by Robert Sandoz, OFM, president. During his homily, he talked about how students are sanctified by their “individual talents and gifts.” On Feb. 1, students showed their school pride during ‘School Spirit Day’.
As part of the Cristo Rey network, Christ the King Prep – founded in 2007 – identifies students of academic ability who have limited financial resources, and provides them with a quality Catholic education. The school promotes academic achievement, professionalism and virtuous character through a challenging core curriculum and innovative work-study program for the purpose of transforming society, according to the school’s website.
Robert and Gregory Gebbia, OFM, who is vice president for student life, began working at Christ the King Prep in 2009.
“There is a critical need for evangelization in the Church today,” said Robert. “One of the key elements in that ministry of evangelization is education, specifically Catholic education. A celebration such as Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity for all in the Church to reaffirm the commitment to bringing the life and mission of Jesus Christ forward, especially through Catholic education.”
Students of Saint Francis International School, on the campus of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, kicked off Catholic School Week on Jan. 30 by bringing non-perishable food items to donate and wearing their favorite sports team apparel for “Soup-er Bowl” Day. The food was donated to the St. Camillus and St. Mark food pantries. The next day, the community welcomed the new bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, Rev. Roy Campbell, who presided at the school’s CSW Mass.
Throughout the week, members of SFIS Student Senate continued to collect donations for the St. Camillus Church food pantry, and students were invited to participate in the nationwide “Great Kindness Challenge,” a grassroots movement focused on making the world a kinder and more compassionate place. At the end of the week, the school became “Kindness Certified” for its proactive approach to improving the school’s climate by engaging the student body.
“On Feb. 1, Fr. Christopher Posch, OFM, sang and danced and taught kids about Jesus’ love, Fr. Lalo (Edgardo) Jara, OFM, talked about vocation, and Fathers Erick López, OFM, and Jean-Marie Kabango-Lenge, OFM, visited many classrooms,” said Tobias Harkleroad, principal. A video posted on the school’s Facebook page shows Christopher playing the guitar and singing with the children.
“Something we are very proud of here at Saint Francis International School is our belief that a Catholic education has to be about far more than math and reading skills,” Harkleroad said. “To nurture children to be instruments of God’s peace, scholars, and global citizens, a Catholic education needs to include a commitment to the arts, to science and the humanities, to faith formation and spiritual experiences, to health and wellness, and a commitment to providing students with the experiences necessary to become well-rounded people.”
At St. Francis of Assisi School in Triangle, Catholic Schools Week began in Jan. 27 with a movie matinee. During the week, students served their community through many outreach programs. Kindergarten students collected donations to make care baskets for the elderly, while the middle schoolers teamed up with younger students to collect baby items to donate to Mary’s Shelter which “provides housing and a Christ-centered program of guidance and support for women facing a crisis during pregnancy,” according to its website. Students also participated in a pizza day, with the proceeds benefiting St. Francis’s sister parish in Peru, according to Lisa Bongiorno, communications and marketing director for the parish and school, who provided a summary of the 2018 CSW events.
“As a Franciscan Catholic school, we teach and model the faith through our actions and words on every level, beginning with our friars and extending to our preschoolers,” said Tricia Barber, principal. “A distinct Franciscan focus is demonstrated through the numerous activities of our outreach endeavors based on Catholic social teaching.”
At Immaculata Catholic School in Durham, N.C., Christopher VanHaight, OFM, visited classrooms throughout the week with “treats and other surprises,” according to an informational flyer prepared by the school’s CSW organizers.
“At Immaculata, we do more than provide an excellent education in a culturally and economically diverse environment,” said Christopher. “We are forming future leaders in the Church and society who will take with them the Franciscan, Catholic, and Christian values they have learned here and use them to make the world a better place. Respect for God, self, and others, being persons of integrity, living lives of service, and producing quality work are the fundamental principles of our school.”
Students participated in a food drive for Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, as well as family skate night. They also wrote letters of appreciation and support to diocesan seminarians. Photos were posted on the school’s Facebook page.
In Raleigh, N.C., St. Francis of Assisi preschool and the Franciscan School dedicated the week to “service and appreciation for each other and all God has given to us,” according to Tricia Henry, director of strategic planning and communications.
“Our Catholic Schools Week projects have a real impact in our local communities and across the globe,” said Henry, who provided a summary of all of St. Francis’s activities for the week. “Last year, we served more than 1,300 individuals from North Carolina to Africa to Central America and the Middle East. Our contributions of blankets, clothing, food, and appreciation impacted people across the world, and we hope to impact even more people this year.”
“We try to teach all of our students that ever gesture and every act of kindness impacts others and spreads out as a ‘ripple’ to benefit so many others,” Henry wrote in a report about how the Raleigh parish commemorated 2018 Catholic Schools Week.
James Sabak, OFM, met with students on Jan. 30 to share stories and celebrate Catholic Schools Week during morning prayer. A photo appeared on the school’s Facebook page.
“We are so thankful for the example and guidance that our Franciscan friars provide to our students on their personal journeys toward true success,” said Henry.
The school affiliated with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville, S.C., where Patrick Tuttle, OFM, is pastor, celebrated the fifth anniversary of its state-of-the-art new building, which replaced a structure that was literally crumbling. “The facilities and capacities [of the school] have improved with each move, but the objective of providing the best possible education for our students has been constant,” according to the Jan. 28 parish bulletin. “Our school’s continuing success has been built on the generosity of our community.”
The bulletin also included a message written by Paulette Payne, president of the school advisory board, that said: “academic success is not the entirety of the profile of St. Anthony students.”
“They learn to be caring people who understand that they can and do impact their community and the world,” she said. “These are accomplishments that are worth celebrating and supporting.”
Founded in 1951, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School is one of the oldest private schools in Greenville County, according to its website. Through solid educational instruction, discipline, and growth in developing a positive self-image, the school is proud to be “weaving a bright future.”
At St. Peter Claver Catholic School in Macon, Ga., John C. Coughlin, OFM, presided and preached at a Jan. 24 Mass for the children and teachers to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.
A photo of John along with William McIntyre, OFM, pastor, appeared in the February issue of Georgia Family Magazine.” The article describes the rich heritage of SPCCS and its longtime service to need-based students in Macon.
Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association since 1974, Catholic Schools Week has provided an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Events are focused on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the Church, local communities and the nation.
— Johann Cuervo is the communications assistant for Holy Name Province.
- “Catholic Education Is a Verb” – Jan. 31, 2017, HNP Today
- “Catholic Schools Week Celebrates Faith, Knowledge, Service” – Feb. 18, 2015, HNP Today
- “Seasonal Reflection: Faith, Knowledge, Service” – Jan. 22, 2014, HNP Today
- “First Class Graduates from Christ the King Prep” – July 27, 2011, HNP Today