By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Catholic Schools across the Diocese of Jackson celebrated national Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27 – Feb. 1. Each school community hosted celebrations of their own – but they all connected to the national theme: “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” A winter storm forced two schools, Columbus Annunciation and Natchez Cathedral, to close for a day, but most were able to celebrate with their communities.
One of the largest events of the week was a rally held at the state capitol. Students from Jackson and Madison attended the rally to show off the impact Catholic schools have on the state of Mississippi. Speakers included Bishop Joseph Kopacz, School Superintendent Catherine Cook, Father Nick Adam, parochial vicar at St. Richard Parish and Father John Bohn, who is the canonical supervisor of Jackson St. Richard and Madison St. Joseph Schools.
In Greenwood the students from St. Francis of Assisi school combined their Catholic Schools Week kickoff Mass with a celebration for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, several of whom are on staff at the school. The order, based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. The motherhouse has asked each community of sisters to mark the anniversary in some special way. At Mass on Sunday, Jan. 27, students took on liturgical roles by proclaiming the word, singing and serving at the altar. Sisters Annette, Kathleen and Judith hosted an open house in their convent after Mass and people came out in droves to thank and celebrate their Sisters. (See page 16.
Greenville St. Joseph kicked off the week Monday by celebrating a $300,000 gift to the school from the estate of Father Richard Somers, former pastor. Father Somers left the money to the school community in his will. “We at St. Joseph Catholic School are appreciative of Father Somers’s love of Catholic Education, especially here at St. Joseph Catholic School in Greenville,” said principal Steve Wies.
Jackson St. Richard school showed off it’s science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math (STREAM) program Tuesday night when families were invited to participate in STREAM projects together. Families made slime, operated robots and helped with other projects after everyone shared a meal.
Vicksburg Catholic School celebrated retired priest Father Tom Lalor by naming the high school library after him. Father Lalor was on hand for the dedication, part of a day of celebration at the school. Students at Columbus Annunciation Catholic School packed more than a thousand lunches for their local food bank.
Natchez Cathedral students also hosted a food drive, although their week was cut short by a day because of bad weather.
Each day at Madison St. Anthony day was focused on appreciating some part of the school community. The students and staff appreciated their parish, the clergy, their parents and their community helpers.
Clarksdale St. Elizabeth students got to invite special guests, such as grandparents or parents to each lunch with them during the week.
Southaven Sacred Heart students heard about different vocations in life from a priest, a religious sister and married couples. They also hosted their traditional “Hope Chain,” where students purchase paper chain links. On Friday, Feb. 1, the students hear about local charities and vote on which one should receive the proceeds from the chain.
Meridian St. Patrick school took their celebration to the streets – hosting a parade from the school to city hall where the mayor read a proclamation for Catholic Schools Week.
Academic excellence takes center stage at Jackson Sister Thea Bowman School, where honor roll and academic honors were presented after school Mass on Wednesday.
Catholic Schools Week is part of a national celebration. “Young people today need Catholic education more than ever,” said Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education. He also stressed that “being rooted in faith does not endanger the academic quality of Catholic schools, but in fact is their very motivation for excellence in all things.”
In a statement released for the observance, he said: “Following Christ’s example of loving and serving all people, Catholic schools proudly provide a well-rounded education to disadvantaged families, new arrivals to America and to all who seek a seat in our schools. Since the inception of Catholic schools in our country, we have always sought to welcome families of all backgrounds while maintaining our principles and teaching in a spirit of charity.”
Nearly 1.8 million students are currently educated in 6,352 Catholic schools in the United States.
Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week has been the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States, sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the USCCB’s Secretariat of Catholic Education. Schools typically observe the annual weeklong celebration with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members.