When the 17th-century poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself….,” he expressed profoundly the intrinsic need of all people to feel that they belong to something larger than themselves. Students who attend Catholic schools have this unifying sense of belonging with their common Catholic faith. In celebration of this religious unity and faith-based education, Catholic schools across the country designate one week as Catholic Schools Week, a tradition begun in 1974.
Catholic Schools Week is a commemorative and charitable time for students as they renew their faith by engaging in activities in which they share with others their love of God and their Catholic beliefs. This week is also a unifying week as students come to understand that they are part of the Catholic community as well as the community of man. During this time, teachers strive to engage students in prayer and activities that remind the pupils that they are receiving a thorough education, for it is one of the mind, body and soul.
Many of the Catholic schools involve their students in acts of charity as students spend their time in giving back to their communities. For instance, students may participate in a service program in the parish hall or cafeteria where they make sandwiches for the homeless. Or, they can put together packages for those in military service away from home. They may also compose letters to the sick or aged. Mentorship is another charitable program in which older students share the Gospel with younger ones. As mentors, the older students engage the younger students in interesting activities involving prayer. These mentors can also invite candidates for their first Communion to a “prayer-a-thon” in which the younger students are taught traditional prayers in preparation for receiving Holy Communion.
Lynn Schultz, principal at St. Bernadette’s Catholic school, said faith is “permeated throughout the entire school culture.” She added,“It’s important for our students to celebrate the value of education, not just the really high focus on learning and personal growth, but the focus on being able to grow in their faith.” Catholic Schools Week underscores this spiritual focus. Concurring with what Principal Schultz observes, Trish Wallinger, a principal at a school named St. Mary’s, notes that Catholic schools nurture all parts of a child: the mind, the body, and the soul. “Sending your child to a school where a rigorous program is paired with being lovingly taught about being a disciple of Christ is a wonderful gift to give your child,” observes Principal Wallinger.