By Teresa Matetich
From Jan. 29 to Feb. 2, our diocesan schools participated in Catholic Schools Week. Since 1974, Catholic schools across the U.S. have celebrated this week with Mass, open houses, and activities. Through these events, schools focus on the values Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to church, communities, and nation. The theme this year is Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. All of our diocesan schools strive to put this theme into action. What follows are examples from our own school that make this happen.
Catholic schools are recognized for academic excellence. In addition to a rigorous curriculum, students are challenged to meet higher expectations. In January, our students competed in our annual Geography Bee (National Geographic) and Spelling Bee (Scripps). Student writers this year submitted essays to the diocesan contest “Be Not Afraid.” A group of our students participate in Math Masters competitions. All students created a poster for the “Keep Christ in Christmas” contest sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, and a number of posters have been sent to the state level. New for our school this year is our LEGO Robotics group, which uses computers to program LEGO machines to accomplish tasks. Learning is celebrated throughout the year at our Catholic schools.
Marathon service project of raking and cleaning yards, putting together “Boxes of Joy” for Cross Catholic Outreach, collecting change for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl, taking a turn delivering “Meals on Wheels” monthly, stuffing bulletins or mending church booklets, helping to serve school lunches and clean the lunchroom — the list of service is long. Called by our mission as a Catholic school to serve others, these activities are a part of everyday life at our school and all of our Catholic schools.
Within each classroom, teachers intentionally provide for every child the chance to lead the class in an activity. I have watched children in our school grow as leaders each year, shy in the early grades, confident with experience as they are older.
Our students take the lead during school Masses; they have the opportunity each week to read, cantor, sing, play an instrument, or bring up gifts. Our students in grades four, five, and six recently joined the adult choir members to sing at our much-loved deacon’s funeral — an honor to serve at Mass in this capacity!
Our hope is that when these children become adults they will remember how they participated in “taking the lead” at school and in church and then step forward to take ownership and be leaders in their faith communities.
Many students when they leave our school go on to successful middle school, high school, and post-secondary educational “careers.” We so enjoy reading about them in the local paper, watching them in their activities, and hearing about them from others in the community. This certainly is a measure of success, but more than achievements, most important to us is the success we witness of caring and contributing individuals.
We are grateful for the dedication of those who work in our schools and the support of those who believe in Catholic education. It is because of all of you — and God’s grace — that our schools will continue to Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.
Teresa Matetich is principal of St. Joseph’s Catholic School