Maybe it’s a function of Catholic Schools Week being celebrated during the last week of January/early February each year, but I would wager that about half of the last 10 Catholic Schools Weeks we have experienced in Medina have been interrupted by at least one snow day.
I suppose there’s a way to track these things, but I don’t care to invest that much time. Suffice to say that, when it became apparent that the storms passing through Ohio were likely to cancel school for at least one day, we rolled our eyes and weren’t surprised.
For those of you who don’t have children in a Catholic school, this is the designated week to celebrate the many ways Catholic schools benefit our children. The teachers, staff and parents spend a few weeks every year determining the proper way to acknowledge all that make our schools special — only to be thwarted in the end by a snow day.
This year’s national theme is Catholic Schools: A+ for America. It is designed to demonstrate that Catholic schools, because of their traditionally high academic standards and high graduation rates, all supported by strong moral values, deliver a positive contribution to our society.
Here in Medina, St. Francis Xavier School kicked off its weeklong celebration with Mass on Saturday evening, followed by an open house and Scholastic book fair. Each school day was designed to feature a different segment of Catholic schools.
Monday, for example, highlighted the way Catholic schools impact the community. Thank-you treats were given to bus drivers and a collection was started for the Military Archdiocese of the U.S., which is headed by two bishops who grew up in the Cleveland diocese.
Today’s focus was to be on faculty and staff; parents volunteered to provide chili for the staffers’ lunch, and the teachers were to enjoy a casual-dress day, for a change. With the students in uniform most days, students are often rewarded with a dress-down day when they can wear jeans or anything they want to school. But this day it was to be the teachers’ turn!
Wednesday, the attention is supposed to shift to how Catholic schools impact our nation and world, so students are encouraged to dress in the colors of the country to which their grade was assigned, and enjoy foods from that country. (My friend Lisa has spent the last week trying to decide exactly what kind of Indian food third-graders might actually try… Good luck with that!)
On Thursday, the theme centers on vocations, with a Living Rosary prayed by students in the church for an increase in religious vocations.
Friday’s theme celebrates the students themselves, with a dress-down day for students, faculty and staff, and a free pancake breakfast at school.
In addition, special trivia contests, drawings and other fun activities are planned throughout the week.
In an era in which cuts are being made at all our schools — public and private — it is rewarding to see the sacrifices made on behalf of 430 students here in the Medina area alone. Yes, these are families who could have sent their children to schools they are already supporting through their taxes and saved themselves a bundle in the process. I’m sure they all would have preferred to drive a new car, build a bigger house or enjoy a relaxing vacation. No doubt, the staff could get higher-paying jobs elsewhere. Yet, everyone involved in a Catholic school can say they are there because they appreciate the values and morals being instilled in word and example, alongside top-notch education, in the deliberate formation of Christian disciples.
It’s not that these things can’t be found outside of a Catholic school, but the setting ensures that these lessons are taught, not merely absorbed by osmosis. We all hope our children grow up with the morals and values we espouse, but how often do we take the time to talk with them directly about how and why we believe these things? At a Catholic school, I know they will get the message, day in and day out, in the context of learning about their world and their responsibility in it.
It’s a shame that some of the festivities will be truncated or abandoned altogether because of the shortened week. But, really, what better way is there to celebrate our dedicated Catholic school teachers — who work for less pay and fewer benefits than their public school counterparts — than by giving them a day or two off?