by Paula M. Riley
Across the country last week, Catholic Schools were celebrating National Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 30 – Feb. 5). This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools Are A+ for America!” was demonstrated as the local Catholic elementary schools celebrated this special time.
Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, chose to commemorate Catholic Schools Week by celebrating and learning about the history and heritage of the Sisters of St. Joseph who operated the school.
“It is only appropriate that in our 90th year we are reminded of our founders and all of those since who have a place in the history of Norwood-Fontbonne,” said Terri Hutsell, NFA’s campus minister.”
Students participated in age-appropriate interactive assemblies hosted by visiting Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Kindergarteners through third graders enjoyed a presentation made by Sr. Rose Andrea Loughery. She shared with the children stories of the Sisters’ history and specifically their commitment to “show love towards our dear neighbors at all times.”
“Who are our dear neighbors?” she asked the excited students when she began her presentation.
One child said, “It’s the person sitting next to you.”
Another replied, “It’s the person living next door.”
“It’s everybody!” exclaimed NFA second grader, Jack Harvey.
Sister Rose Andrea clapped for “just the answer.”
“Our dear neighbor is everyone, without distinction,” she said.
She asked the children how they show love to their neighbor.
“I help them when they fall down,” said first grader Katie McGowen.
Sister Rose Andrea explained that since their inception in 1650, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have been helping their “dear neighbors.” In their earliest days, they fed the hungry and cared for the sick in Le Puy, France.
When they came to Chestnut Hill in the 1850s, the sisters continued these efforts and also established local schools. Today they fulfill their mission to showing love for neighbor through their work in schools, with the elderly at St. Joseph’s Villa and welcoming immigrants.
When Sister Mary Beth Hamm, of the SSJ Justice Office, met with seventh and eight graders on the Academy’s Norwood campus, she wove a story of the SSJ history, spanning more than three centuries, to help the students discover their own role in the mission and vision of the Sisters today.
She told the children how the founding Sisters went around their city to find the “miseries” (suffering) and help those in need.
“I tried to help the students see the connections between the original Sisters and what they do,” Hamm explained.
“What are you doing today?” She asked them.
Students replied with illustrations of their community service efforts they engage in as part of the Academy’s integrated service learning curriculum and as member of NFA’s CSC, community service corps.
Other presentations at NFA involved Sister Mary Helen Beirne head of school, who met with with the preschool students, and sister Roberta Archibald, who worked with the fourth, fifth and sixthgraders, sharing the message that where ever Sisters live and work, “hope lives here.”
Students at Our Mother of Consolation Parish School celebrated Catholic school all week long. The entire parish congregation enjoyed a special Mass on Sunday to begin the week. Students acted as altar servers, cantors and lectors. Past teachers and principals were recognized during the service. The schools’ Strategic Plan Progress Report was distributed by students and families visited the school for an Open House.
A special celebration was held each day, all week, to remind the children about the gift of Catholic schools. Monday’s event was Gr- andparents’ Day. Grandparents visited classrooms in the morning and shared a special prayer service where they sat with their grandchildren after which the enjoyed a reception in the school hall.
Tuesday’s excitement involved bingo in which students stayed in their classrooms but played games of BINGO as their letter/number combinations were announced over the loudspeaker, and competitions were held between different classes.
Illustrating the school’s commitment to service and reaching out to those in need, Wednesday was dubbed “Service Day.” Students deviated from their uniforms and wore brightly colored socks and brought a brand new pair for a donation to the homeless.
Students arrived at school wearing colorfully designed socks, but also had in their backpacks granola bars, hot cocoa packets, apples, oranges, juice boxes, raisins and cereal boxes. These were each added to the breakfast bags the children assembled for Face to Face in Germantown.
Mission Day was held on Thursday. This was also a school Tag Day. Every month, on Tag Days, students donate $1 to a nonprofit organization and wear a tag on their uniform showing their support for this organization. Holy Childhood Missions was the recipient of Thursday’s tag day. A special guest for Catholic Schools Week was the director, Sister Catherine Kelly.
In a warm and engaging manner, complete with a slide show of photographs, Sister Catherine shared with the students detailed stories of her many trips to third-world countries. With a particular focus on the poorest areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, she described in detail the pain and suffering individuals in these places face every day.
The pictures showed a wide variety of living conditions, where adult and children lacked food, clothing and shelter. The pictures, as well as her words, left a lasting impact on OMC eighth grader Jack Grogan. “She tried to help us realize how fortunate we are and reminded us of the struggles these people deal with,” he explained.
Although a few of the celebrations had to be rescheduled due to weather, the week was still deemed as success. Citing that it is good to learn how to help others and important to do things for others, Grogan commented: “Catholic School Weeks is about learning how being a Catholic can help you throughout your whole life…Catholic education enables you to help others.”