Schools embrace Jubilee Year of Mercy

Forming our Future
By Margaret Anzelmo
This year in the Diocese of Jackson schools, we are TEAMing Up for Catholic Education, with TEAM as an acronym for Teaching Everyone About Mercy. This diocesan-wide theme is two-fold. The theme incorporates Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy and also the theme for this year’s Catechetical Sunday “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person” into a focus in each school for religious instruction, faith formation and social justice. In addition, the theme demonstrates an outward commitment to our individual schools, to the students and families within them, to our diocese and to Catholic education.
According to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, one of the intentions of this Year of Mercy will be to encourage Christians to meet people’s needs in tangible ways. The logo for the Year of Mercy is Jesus as the Good Shepherd with a person, or a lost soul, over His shoulders. Similarly, Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in passing on our Catholic faith and being a witness to the Gospel.
As Catholic schools, these principles are evident on each campus regardless of any current theme or Jubilee; however, this year the principles are being carried out explicitly and intentionally so that each of us involved in Catholic education, whether our role is as student, educator, or leader, can recognize the part he or she plays in Teaching Everyone About Mercy. A few ways that the schools in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson are incorporating the TEAM theme are:
Greenwood St. Francis School created a school wide goal that states: “At St. Francis School We Strive to…. Encourage all to live in a hope which is nourished by mercy. We work toward this goal by: teaching love in action; helping all to steadily develop a healthy sense of self esteem; daily reading the Scriptures as the source of our hope and the foundation of our practice of mercy and promoting respect throughout the day in many ways.”
Clarksdale St. Elizabeth School is emphasizing the dictionary definition of mercy, “Kindness beyond what can be claimed or expected or more kindness than justice requires,” as the driving force behind several social justice and service projects, such as: bringing canned goods each Thursday to school Mass to donate to a food pantry; sending cards to shut-ins within the parish;  collecting and sending soda can tabs to St. Jude Children’s Hospita and collecting bread for soup kitchens on the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
Columbus Annunciation School has a banner in the school cafeteria which displays the TEAM acronym as a reminder for their school community. Teachers worked with this theme prior to the start of school through use of the Pope’s Prayer of Mercy and other mercy prayers and by developing a list of how they can show mercy as a staff. The school also has incorporated the concept of mercy into their classroom management plans and into a school prayer service, where students brainstormed ways their school community could show mercy.
Meridian St. Patrick School began their year with a staff retreat led by Fran Lavelle, Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Jackson. The retreat focused on the Jubilee Year of Mercy and its incorporation into the diocesan theme. A school wide slogan of “Team Shamrock” and a focus on service learning and virtues is making the theme come to life for all of the school community.
Jackson St. Richard School has incorporated the TEAM theme into a school-wide slogan, Team Cardinal. This slogan is being used in hallway displays, on t-shirts, and as the theme for the school’s annual CardinalFest this fall. The theme is also being emphasized during Catechesis of the Good Shepherd classes, during classroom religion classes, and during school Masses.
Madidon St. Joseph School is tying the TEAM theme into their new emphasis on STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), which they are calling “STREAMs of Mercy.” As teachers work together across departments to write STREAM units of instruction, they connect each unit to a particular area of social justice so that students are learning academic content through real life applications as they engineer solutions to actual social justice issues in their community.
(Margaret Anzelmo is the coordinator for academic excellence for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Jackson)