Across the country, 7,094 elementary and secondary Catholic schools will celebrate National Catholic Schools Week. Today launches the weeklong fun-fest, now marking its 38th year, which is a joint project of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: A+ For America.”
My 10-year-old has said “I wish every week was Catholic Schools Week.” When you check out the line-up of her elementary school’s Catholic Schools Week celebration, you can see why. Each day is filled with get up and out-of-the-desk activities, including a Teacher Scramble, field trip to the local skating rink, classroom potluck and Grandparents Day. The finale is a jog-a-thon and barbeque at a nearby community park. Phew!
Did you attend Catholic schools? Since my heyday in Catholic classrooms during the mid-70s and 80s, the faculty was a mix of lay and religious personnel. It is not surprising that the staffing model in today’s schools is now primarily lay teachers. In 2009, the NCEA reported that 96% of Catholic school teachers are lay personnel. Back in 1950, a very different NCEA snapshot revealed 90.1% of all Catholic schools were staffed by primarily religious teachers. With this pendulum shift from religious to lay teachers, Catholic schools are still championing their high academic standards all the while instilling a culture of intellectual, spiritual, moral, physical, and social values in the classroom. Despite the grim economic climate, 24 new schools opened during the 2009-10 school year, NCEA numbers revealed, with 174 schools closed or consolidated during the same timeframe.
Who says parents can’t celebrate too? If you are a Catholic school alumni or have children currently attending one, the NCEA offers a “Top 10” list of how parents can get involved during the weeklong celebration of Catholic schools:
- Write a note of appreciation to your children’s teachers. Thank them for the attention and energy they give your children every day, as well as for their dedication to Catholic education.
- Write a letter to your parish priest, thanking him for supporting the Catholic school that is preparing your children for a bright future.
- Write a letter to your representatives in the U.S. Congress and state legislature to let them know why Catholic education is important to you and your community. Send a copy of your letter to your school principal.
- While you’re at it, write a thank-you note to that special teacher from your own Catholic school days who had a significant impact on your life.
- Donate books or other learning materials to the school library. If you can, ask the librarian if the school needs books on certain subjects or for particular grade levels.
- Set aside time for family prayer for all those who contribute to the success of your children’s school, including students, teachers, staff, benefactors and volunteers. Add a prayer for vocations to continue the Catholic education tradition in your community and throughout the country.
- Volunteer to help plan and carry out Catholic Schools Week activities. Whether you are able to contribute a little time or a lot, your effort helps make the week special for all.
- If, through your work or volunteer activities, you learn of a need in the community that students at your children’s school can help fill, recommend a Catholic Schools Week or ongoing service project. Better yet, volunteer to organize it.
- Join in the fun! Gather the entire family—from younger siblings to grandparents—and participate in the week’s events at your children’s school.
- Extend a special invitation to your school’s open house and other Catholic Schools Week events to friends and neighbors who might want to learn more about the value of Catholic education.
Copyright 2011 Colleen McNatt