By MARY ANN CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published January 22, 2004
The air is noticeably swirling with excitement this week at Catholic schools around the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Excitement, pride and celebration abound, as students, teachers, parents and faculty prepare to celebrate the blessings of Catholic education during Catholic Schools Week, which is commemorated nationally the week of Jan. 25-31. This year’s theme for the 30th annual celebration is “Catholic Schools: A Faith-Filled Future.” Wednesday, Jan. 28, is the centerpiece of the week—National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools.
This program is a collaborative undertaking by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Catholic education is one of the great and generous works of the church. Our graduates have become leaders of this country, teachers, Religious men and women and business entrepreneurs. Without doubt our schools have had a far-reaching impact on shaping the world,” said Michael J. Guerra, NCEA president.
Dominican Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, USCCB Secretary for Education, said that this year’s theme underscores faith as an important value at the foundation of a Catholic school curriculum and also gives assurance that Catholic schools foresee a bright future. “Catholic school leaders are committed to making a difference. Our goal is to graduate students who have strong moral standards and fine academic skills who will become good citizens and able members of the workforce.”
The purpose of Catholic Schools Week is to build support and recognition for the 8,000 Catholic schools nationwide. In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, celebrations are planned to make the week extra special for students, teachers and parents, to give something back to the community and to underscore the uniqueness of Catholic education.
Various events filled with fun, activities done to express appreciation and projects intended to benefit the community are the hallmarks of the celebrations planned at the schools.
At St. Joseph School in Marietta, “Catholic Schools Week is a huge celebration,” said development director Missy Walthouse. Like many of the schools, St. Joseph begins the week with an open house for prospective parents. Other activities at the school include making rosaries for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging for their mission in Zamboanga, Philippines; a luncheon with Kelly Cass, on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel, who has a special faith story to share; making and delivering sandwiches for MUST ministries in Marietta; Spirit Day; and collecting books for the Communities in Schools program of the Cobb Literacy Council.
In addition to a special school Mass and pageant about St. Marguerite D’Youville on Jan. 26, St. John Neumann School in Lilburn will host the Archdiocesan Mass on Jan. 28 for all of the eighth-grade students of the archdiocese. This Mass will be celebrated with Archbishop John F. Donoghue. The school will host a book sale after the Mass to benefit Amigos for Christ, an international nonprofit relief organization which is based in Buford. The school will also collect medical supplies all week for the group. The eighth-grade students will teach the K-5 classes on faculty/staff appreciation day. And the school holds a photo contest that week so that students can take photos for the school yearbook.
Our Lady of Victory School in Tyrone has scheduled a variety of special events, including a sock hop for grades three to five, a spelling bee with St. Joseph School, Athens, a talent show, and a volleyball game between the eighth-graders and the staff. Every class at the school will complete a service project for the school, church or local community.
St. Catherine of Siena School in Kennesaw has events planned from Jan. 20 to the end of the month. Students will make banners to celebrate the week and share with members of the parish. The students will dress up as what they would like to be in the future and write an essay about what they envision their future holds. Each class will be assigned a saint, so that students can write a poem or draw a picture about how their saint models faith. Each day of Catholic Schools Week is designated as a day of appreciation at the school for those who are special to the students of St. Catherine’s, from the priests, soldiers and members of the community, to parents, grandparents, teachers and students.
Decatur’s St. Peter Claver School will also hold appreciation days each day of the week for parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers and students.
Queen of Angels School in Roswell will hang Celtic crosses in the hallways that show student answers to questions about faith and love of God. The school will have a coin collection to benefit the Safe Passage mission in Guatemala, which is the school’s newest service project. Other activities include a Christian music concert, “Celebrate Our Nation” day, and a Mass and reception for parents and volunteers. The week will end with a luncheon for faculty and staff and a prayer service at St. Peter Chanel Church.
Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Atlanta will work on various service projects during Catholic Schools Week. The seventh-grade students are making bag lunches for the downtown men’s shelter, and middle school students are serving dinner at that shelter. First-graders are collecting men’s gloves, and third-graders are collecting over-the-counter medications for the men at the Central night shelter. Every year, IHM honors a special person who has been committed to Catholic education. This year, the school will honor Father Richard Kieran, the former pastor of the church, who was actively involved with the school for many years.
St. Thomas More School in Decatur begins the week with a Parent Work Day at the school, so that the campus is cleaned and beautified for the week and the accompanying open house and tours. Eighth-grade students and their kindergarten “buddies” invite their grandparents or special adults in their lives to a special Mass and brunch. On Sunday, Feb. 1, St. Thomas More will host the Annual Archdiocesan Art Exhibit, which will spotlight the artistic gifts of Catholic school students in the area.
Christ the King School in Atlanta holds special award breakfasts for the various grades every day of Catholic Schools Week. Activities include bowling for the seventh- and eighth-grade students, and a career fair for the older students. Art on the Move and Odyssey of the Mind are also featured during the week, which ends on Saturday with a school Mass and a big family pizza dinner in the parish hall.
Rosanne Bowen, the religion coordinator at Holy Redeemer School in Alpharetta, reports that the school will begin the week with Mass. “We always try to begin with the Eucharist, with Christ at our center.” Holy Redeemer has many events planned to impress the students with their Catholic identity. Middle school students will play the game show “Who Wants To Be a Catholic?” including three priests to serve as lifelines. Students will be in the “holy” seat instead of the hot seat as they play. All grades will participate in a school trivia contest, with the winning classroom receiving a pizza party. Holy Redeemer students and faculty will sport “Catholic Schools Are Cool! Ask Me Why!” buttons, to let the world know how much they love their school.