Browsing The Northern Cross

Cynthia Zook: Catholic schools join in diocesan anniversary

By Cynthia Zook
Guest columnist

What is the best way to help children understand how long the Diocese of Duluth has been in existence? Put it in terms they can understand.

While adults just know that a 125th anniversary is a big deal, children have a harder time visualizing. That is why Catholic schools across the diocese planned special activities to make the number real to their students.

Over the past several months, groups of northern Minnesota Catholic school students have logged 125 hours of community service, prayed 125 rosaries, made banners with 125 paper hands, performed 125 random acts of kindness and engaged in other activities that brought the anniversary number to life. Some are planning additional deeds and events leading up to a diocesan anniversary Mass, which will be celebrated Sept. 12 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

Catholic schools have played an important role in the history of our local church. As we reflect on the theme of this year’s diocesan anniversary celebration, “Celebrating 125 Years: Our Story, Our Faith,” our schools have a compelling story to share. They have been helping families and parishes pass on the faith and its rich traditions for generations, providing safe, respectful learning environments that prepare children for success in life.

We are very blessed by the foresight and resolve of early religious sisters and priests who pioneered Catholic school education in northern Minnesota and whose influence continues today.

These faithful servants of God and those who followed in their footsteps have built strong Catholic school communities that benefit our entire diocese and the world beyond its borders. It is with deep gratitude that we celebrate this proud history, entering into the anniversary with a variety of projects and faith-filled lessons.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Assumption School, Hibbing (PreK-6): Students completed 125 hours of community service.
  • Holy Rosary School, Duluth (K-8): Students will participate in the diocesan walk in September.
  • Marquette Catholic School, Virginia (PreK-6): Each teacher and student wrote a prayer of praise, petition, thanksgiving or contrition that could be used for adoration or personal devotions. The prayers were compiled in a prayer book.
  • Queen of Peace School, Cloquet (PreK-6); St. Mary’s Catholic School, Pine City (PreK-6); and St. Michael’s Lakeside School, Duluth (PreK-5): Students completed 125 acts of kindness by the 125th day of school.
  • St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School, Brainerd (PreK-8): Middle school students prayed 125 rosaries for peace and for military personnel; PreK-2 grade students decorated and created placemats and greeting cards for nursing home residents and homebound parishioners; Grades 3-4 made a prayer banner with 125 hands forming the shape of a heart for police officers and firefighters.
  • St. James Catholic School, Duluth (PreK-8): Students marked the 125th day of the school year with a joyful Mass to thank God for the blessings of 125 years as a diocese. Following Mass they prayed a rosary for continued blessings.
  • St. John’s School, Duluth, (PreK-6): Students were given one-inch squares that made up a 125-piece mosaic of Jesus. The students replicated and enlarged the images to create a much larger mosaic of Jesus.
  • St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Grand Rapids (PreK-6): Students completed 125 acts of kindness and made posters to promote eucharistic adoration.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas School, International Falls (PreK-8): Students made 125 friendship cards and delivered them to nursing home residents, members of supporting parishes, and school benefactors.
Faculty members attend retreat

In June, teachers and administrators attended a three-day retreat to reflect on our ministry, learn more about our faith and enter fully in deep prayer by becoming more familiar with the prayers of the church.

Facilitator Father Ben Hadrich also led us in discussions and study of “Joy of the Gospel,” the apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis.

Please pray for our Catholic schools. Choose this beautiful option for your children, if possible, and encourage others to do the same.

The story of the next 125 years is about to unfold.

Cynthia Zook is director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Duluth.