Catholic Schools: The good news in education

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A photo gallery of Catholic Schools Week 2017 may be found here.

Held annually, Catholic Schools Week (CSW) is a special time of year when all Catholic schools celebrate the gift of Catholic education with their students, administrators, families, friends, church, and communities. The 2017 Catholic Schools Week was held Jan. 29-Feb. 4 in each of the 23 diocesan elementary schools and three high schools. The theme for the National Catholic Schools Week 2017 was “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses, and other activities which highlight the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church and our nation.

For example, in Guardian Angel School, Oran, the festivities started with an all-school Mass on Sun., Jan. 29, followed by a book fair held in the school library. On Monday, the teachers prepared breakfast for the students and several adults who volunteer with the school. The students in grades Pre-K to third grade had a pajama day. (The students in grades fourth to eighth grade had a field trip that day, but did get to have a pajama day on Wednesday.) On Tuesday, posters were delivered to the businesses in the community, thanking them for all they do for Guardian Angel School. Also, on Wednesday, the cooks prepared a special meal of chili and cinnamon rolls, and parents and grandparents were invited to join child(ren) for lunch. On Thursday, the students and teachers attended adoration in church at specified times of the day, in order to pray the rosary for vocations. On Friday, the entire school went bowling at West Park Lanes in Cape Girardeau and upon arrival back at Oran, were dismissed from school at noon. Similar events were held throughout the diocese.

Bishop Rice held three all-school liturgies during Catholic Schools Week: Jan. 31, with Joplin Area Catholic School students in St. Mary Church, Joplin; Feb. 1, with Springfield Catholic Schools in Springfield Catholic High School; and Feb. 3, with Cape Girardeau Area Catholic Schools in Notre Dame Regional High School.

Bishop praises mission of Catholic Schools

Bishop Rice on Catholic Schools Week 2017
Feb. 3, 2017
Cape Girardeau, MO

Special thanks to the Administration, staff, and faculty at each of our 23 Catholic elementary schools and three high schools. You form the minds and souls of our youth. Of all my assignments, teaching high school was my most enjoyable and carried with it the greatest burden and responsibility. Thank you for all you do.

It is so good to celebrate and recognize Catholic Schools Week. You may or may not know that each year there is a particular theme to Catholic Schools Week. The theme for this year is “Catholic schools: Communities of faith, knowledge, and service.”

Have you ever looked at the school’s mission statement. A mission statement expresses why the institution exists, the purpose of the organization. A mission statement explains the difference the institution makes and therefore what would be missing if the institution did not exist. The mission statement explains how the institution contributes to society.

Further, a mission statement guides the actions of the institutions and inspires all those in the institution. Any institution can have a mission statement. United Parcel Service (UPS) has a mission statement serving the needs of their customers with excellence and value. And, for example, Notre Dame Regional High School in Cape Girardeau, has a mission statement. That statement includes challenging the students academically, physically, and emotionally. Notre Dame desires to build character, with respect for self and others. That is crucial. Notre Dame Regional High School and all of our schools want to provide a program that fosters excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service.

But when you think about it, wouldn’t every school aspire to promote academic excellence? If not, why is the school in existence? Wouldn’t every school strive to help its students be their best academically, physically, and emotionally? Again, if not, why would the school exist? These are the noble and lofty goals of Catholic education.

But, the mission statement for most Catholic Schools offers more. The mission statement of Notre Dame also states that everything is rooted in the teaching mission of Jesus Christ. Notre Dame and all of our schools want to be communities where the students are challenged spiritually as well, where gospel values and Catholic teachings are integrated into life, so that a freshman student may walk into this school, but an apostle will graduate four years later! It’s one thing to teach the faith. And, truth be told, you can be taught the faith for four years and graduate a good atheist!

As a special challenge to the faculty and staff-—Pope Paul VI addressed teachers and said, “We listen more to witnesses than to teachers and if we do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

The mission of a Catholic school is to teach and model the faith. Not just when you are in school from 8-3; not just Monday-Friday; not just when you are at Sunday Mass. No, a witness to Christ is 24/7, 365 days a year. A witness to Christ is one who shows forth Christ in their thoughts, words, and actions, especially when no one is watching. When that happens, the faith has been integrated into one’s life. That is when the mission statement is alive. You see, the danger is that you create a mission statement, frame it, hang it on a wall, and never look at it again!

So, the theme of Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Communities of faith, knowledge, and service.” Anyone can serve. And hopefully we all want to grow in knowledge. But, what makes Notre Dame and all our Catholic Schools stand out, their purposes and missions, is to not just teach the faith, but even more so, the reason they exist is to model a faith rooted in the person of Jesus Christ so that in the end, everyone in the school is formed into an apostle.

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