Celebrating Catholic education: Catholic Schools Week unites 18,000-plus students with hundreds of faculty, staff during pandemic

January 26, 2021

Students at Holy Rosary Catholic School in Rosenberg perform a science experience during class. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, Catholic school students across the nation and Archdiocese will celebrate Catholic education during Catholic Schools Week. (Photo courtesy Holy Rosary Catholic School in Rosenberg)

HOUSTON — National Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated across the country from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 with the theme: “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”
Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Secretariat of Catholic Education, Catholic Schools Week (CSW), now in its 47th year, is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.

In the Archdiocese, students, faculty and staff normally observe the week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the activities and gatherings will be limited and modified.

Rebecca Bogard, principal at St. John Paul II Catholic School, said the pandemic created challenges when figuring out how to celebrate together.

“We are a community of saints, and this year has been difficult as our community is so close, and we are not having the opportunities to be together,” she said. “We had to change many of our events to virtual or like our large group pep rally/relay races are now on our field and not in the gym. We are livestreaming our Talent Show and our Saints Alive Jeopardy.”

Bogard said their focus has been “directed at celebrating the blessings of being part of a Catholic School through a gratitude day and doing our best to bring the community together with a virtual Bingo night as well.”

Anne M. Quatrini, principal at St. Francis de Sales Catholic School, said the Open House that regularly begins the week has now become tours only available by appointment only on designated days to limit the amount of people on campus. The students will still be able to celebrate their school colors, have a contest decorating their classroom doors, attend Adoration and be part of the teacher service awards.

“Our focus is that we are still able to pray and learn together in a safe community,” she said.

Susan Harris, principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Crosby, said that while the pandemic meant changing activities slightly to ensure social distancing and safety for all, they will continue their activities honoring the parish, community, vocations, students, faculty, staff and volunteers.

“With the pandemic, we looked at our Catholic School activities and scaled back those where there is contact or a gathering of people,” she said. “Typically, we have a Catholic Schools Mass on the first Sunday of CSW. This year we will have a speaker after the Mass. Students will not be present to hand out prayer cards; they will be provided in baskets near the exits of the church. Attendance will be left to the decision of each school family. In lieu of an Open House, we will be creating a short video introducing the school to prospective families.”

Jennifer Saladino, administrative assistant at St. Rose of Lima, said that “as a community throughout the pandemic, we have discovered that our sense of togetherness is strengthened through community service. Therefore, we have decided to hold our second blood drive of the (school) year during CSW.” The first St. Rose of Lima Blood Drive was held in October 2020. Partnered with MD Anderson Cancer Center, the blood drive resulted in nearly 80 donations, which has assisted 204 cancer patients.

“During Catholic Schools Week, we will partner with St. Pius X High School and MD Anderson to further this cause again, hoping to provide additional, critical resources for those who most need it,” Saladino said.

Dr. Mazie S. McCoy, principal at Corpus Christi Catholic School (CCCS), said the pandemic caused their students’ lives to change overnight.

“So many people in our country are hurting right now,” she said. “CSW is our time to encourage our communities to rely upon their faith and the hope that there is a brighter tomorrow, which begins with our children.”

McCoy said the school’s faculty and staff feel it is important to place emphasis on their role as each being the hands and feet of Jesus during this year’s CSW, considering the effect the pandemic has had on people worldwide.

“Although we are not able to gather in a large group, we will pray for our nation by reciting the Patriotic Rosary together using technology on that Wednesday,” she said. “We have also invited a current seminarian who is a CCCS alumnus to conference with us via Zoom. He will discuss his journey and his calling to his vocation. Students will have the opportunity to prepare and send questions ahead of time.”

Deborah D. Francis, principal at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School in Baytown, said that usually, CSW included an in-person Open House; a chili cook-off, a parent vs. teacher volleyball tournament; pep rallies, among other things. Because of COVID-19, the school is unable to have visitors on campus, and social distances guidelines made them think of alternative activities that would allow the students to enjoy this very special week.

“We will still do our traditional concentration of celebrating our community, our students, vocations, etc. We will just do them safely,” she said. “For example, to Celebrate Our Community, traditionally, we have held a career day with speakers from our community. This year, students will have the opportunity to dress up as their favorite community helper and will write thank you letters to whomever they choose.”

Veronica D. Tucker, principal at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School in The Woodlands, said CSW is more important than ever this year because Catholic schools have been amazingly flexible in a challenging time.

“We are lucky that our parish has very dynamic streaming capabilities to share Mass each Sunday with our parish families at home,” she said. “This year, we will incorporate a short video into the streaming to highlight our school and the great things we are doing. Social distancing has also prevented us from gathering as an entire school, but we are getting creative and incorporating service and celebration into each classroom.”

Dr. Kathleen Cox, principal at St. Michael Catholic School, said the pandemic, unfortunately, affected their gatherings with the students and their families.

“Parents are usually invited to have lunch with their children on a specific day, and this will not take place,” she said. “We also usually ask students to attend Mass in their school uniform on the opening weekend of CSW. We are not doing this this year because of capacity during weekend Mass and because some families do not feel safe going to church during the pandemic.”

Dr. Phyllis Coleman, principal of St. Helen Catholic School in Pearland, said the pandemic forced them to get creative when showcasing how the school fulfills the theme of CSW on a daily basis.

“We have eliminated any group celebrations or assemblies and all parent-involved programs or volunteer opportunities,” she said. “We are moving our Open House to a virtual platform, with each grade-level team creating a short video to introduce themselves to new parents. Our CSW Mass for new families has been re-staged. Families are invited, but a welcoming committee will now be in the church narthex to provide hand-outs and information to them. Tours will be online and virtual.”

To learn more about Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese and how you can support Catholic education, register to virtually attend ‘A Pattern of Hope’ virtual event benefiting Catholic Schools on Feb. 5th, visit www.choosecatholicschools.org. †