Catholic Schools Week, which schools across the nation are celebrating this week, highlights the best in Catholic education.
To mark the Jan. 25 to 31 observance, schools around the Archdiocese of Louisville are decorating their halls, holding special sporting events and open houses and they’re offering activities that reflect this year’s theme — “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
St. Leonard School is holding a spelling bee and St. Raphael School is having a geography bee to test their knowledge. St. Patrick School is holding a “penny war “ to raise money for Nativity Academy at St. Boniface. St. Stephen Martyr School collected donations for military members and Hand in Hand Ministries.
These activities — promoting faith, knowledge and service — aren’t limited to one week in January. Catholic schools foster these values throughout the year.
Students in Catholic schools learn to live their faith in the classroom and the sanctuary. They also learn to live their faith outside of the school setting. In just a few weeks, students from various grade schools will continue an annual Lenten tradition of leading the Way of the Cross at the archdiocese’s Catholic cemeteries. Every Friday during Lent, a different school will send students to lead stations for the 30 to 40 adults who typically attend.
Academically, there’s no doubt our schools are a success. In 2014, four parish grade schools were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Dept. of Education. The distinction recognizes the academic excellence of schools around the nation. Last year, students attending the nine Catholic high schools in the archdiocese earned college scholarships valued at $121.3 million.
These bright students also logged 162,024 hours of community service last year. Elementary and high schools around the archdiocese regularly collect food for local community ministries, assist refugees at Catholic Charities and engage in other sorts of service.
Several high schools serve those who have died destitute through the Society of St. Joseph of Arimathea. Students in the organization conduct grave-side prayer services for these indigent people and raise money for their tombstones.
Just last week, St. Agnes School students were at the Cathedral of the Assumption’s Sandefur Dining Hall, which serves lunch year-round. The students helped serve lunch to homeless and hungry people. At Christmas, Sacred Heart Schools collected about 3,000 Christmas gifts and delivered them to impoverished families in Kermit, W.V.
These are just a few examples of the good work Catholic schools accomplished throughout the last year or so.
Leadership of the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), which offers financial assistance to families and schools, want to see more students benefit from the faith, knowledge and service fostered by Catholic schools.
The new Catholic Elementary School plan — announced in November — aims to do just that by expanding tuition assistance, doubling the amount of aid available. At four schools in southwest Jefferson County, the CEF is making an additional $200,000 available for tuition assistance and hopes the added funds will increase Catholic school enrollment in that area by 100 students.
Representatives of the CEF also are travelling to parishes in the archdiocese and visiting with parents who have children in religious education programs. They are urging families that think Catholic education is financially out of reach to apply for aid.
And they’re helping families apply for aid on the spot, when possible.
CEF representatives did this today, Jan. 28, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in West Louisville. There are no longer any Catholic schools in that area of Jefferson County. CEF leaders say they want students in West Louisville to have the same opportunities as kids in other parts of Jefferson County.
It’s a long-needed commitment to a part of Jefferson County that has active parishes, but no opportunities for Catholic education.
The new school plan will make Catholic education more accessible to families and, one hopes, will also increase the diversity of economics, ethnicity and education represented in our Catholics schools — a move that will enrich all of us.
These things will be accomplished, in large part, because the archdiocese’s 111 parishes have generously committed part of their income to this effort.
This week, let’s give thanks and celebrate the great accomplishments of our Catholic schools. Let’s also find within ourselves a willingness to support these efforts with our prayers, our financial resources and our time.