Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Catholic Schools Week

Throughout the USA this week is Catholic Schools Week. Catholic schools, parochial, regional and private celebrate their contributions to their students, their families, and to the whole country.
My first grade teacher Sister Jean, OSU with my sister and I.
I am grateful that my parents made the sacrifice to send me to Catholic schools from grade one through high school. I only missed one year--7th grade--when there was no parochial school yet in our new parish. My first grade teacher, Sister Jeanne is still relatively active. I was privileged to have her as a guest when I celebrated 50 years in the convent. Sister made sure that we all learned our ABC's, basic writing skills, and of course lessons about God. We sat straight so our Guardian Angel could sit next to us. I still remember the colorful flip charts of Bible stories Sister used to keep our attention.
Parochial schools in the USA  began with St. John Neumann in Philadelphia. Mother Seton opened schools which were at the time more like private academies. Mother Katharine Drexel, Foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament was from Philadelphia. She established schools and parishes for Native Americans and African Americans thoughout the United States. Xavier University in New Orleans is one of the jewels of Mother Katharine's efforts to raise the level of education for Black Americans.
Here in Northern Virginia Catholic parochial schools are flourishing. I am  impressed at the many, large and well equipped Catholic schools provided for young people in this part of the country. This past weekend Sister Elizabeth and I were at St. William of York parish and school in Stafford, Virginia. The school hosted an open house and a Pauline Book & Media fair as the beginning of their Catholic Schools Week. Parents visited our book display and were eager to take home reading for themselves as well as for their children.
Catholic schools sometimes are in "out-of-the-way places" such as the remote island scattered across the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam and Saipan in the Marianas Islands.The last time I visited Guam I was able to visit the island of Truk, now called Chuuk. There the Jesuits operate Xavier High School which hosts young people from all over the Pacific islands, especially Micronesia. There the students learn not only their academic lessons, but how to provide for themselves, to care for the property, and to become competent leaders. Wikipedia states that this school is called "The Harvard of Micronesia" because it has trained many of the leaders of the Federated States of Micronesia and others. Although the information page on the web says that the school was founded in 1952, it was already in existence when the Japanese invaded the islands in World War II. Part of the building has walls four feet thick to withstand bombardments. See xaviermicronesia.org/
Jesuits are spearheading the growth of Cristo Rey schools in inner city areas. These schools help young men and women to thrive academically by offering extended hours, and demanding commitment not only from the students but from their parents as well. Jesuit universities, such as Boston College, are engaged in helping to train teachers for all academic levels.
Tomorrow and Thursday two of us Sisters will be at St. Timothy School in Chantilly, Virginia with our JClub Book Fair. JClub gives an opportunity for students, teachers and parents to acquire wholesome and specifically Catholic reading and viewing (with some DVD's). I look forward to being with the young and eager students. Their minds are waiting for information and their hearts and imaginations are looking for good example.
This week let us pray for all those dedicated to Catholic education in the USA.

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