Yes, Catholic Schools Week is our next big “party,” with a theme that will be with us for a couple of years---CATHOLIC SCHOOLS:  Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service. This year, I am thrilled to present a “mosaic” of many of our Catholic schools in the archdiocese and the many ways they bring this theme to life. Let’s begin with a “domino” movement across western Oregon featuring our schools at their best!

COMMUNITIES OF FAITH:  St. Cecilia School, Portland, with its “Spirituality Bulletin Board” providing the opportunity for each class (in rotation) to reflect on, write essays, and illustrate Christian values; O’Hara Catholic School, Eugene, celebrating Mass with a variety of priests from Lane County, and one who incorporates “magic tricks” in his homily. Additionally O’Hara was just honored as “school of the month in the January/February 2014  issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher; Holy Family School, Portland, organizing a “living rosary” with each “bead”/student initiating the first stanza of the “Hail Mary” prayer, encircling the whole church, and especially remembering their pastor, Fr. George Wolf, who is suffering from cancer, in a spiritual exercise of shared prayer, Faith and love; St. Francis School students, Sherwood, engage in spontaneous, contemplative, and communal forms of prayer, with regular visits to the St. Francis Church Adoration Chapel; Valley Catholic High School, Beaverton, preparing for and celebrating (for pre-schoolers to grade 12) a “Blue Mass” to honor and thank firefighters, police officers, and medical technicians for their lives of self-less action and service to the community; Marist Catholic High School, Eugene, Student Pro-life Club launching its new ad campaign for public city buses with their “Respect Life” message: “Respect Life, Respect Yourself From Conception to Natural Death; Regis Catholic High School  and Saint Mary School, Stayton, hosting 10 Catholic schools for a very special Catholic Schools Week Mass with Archbishop Alexander Sample on January 30th.

 COMMUNITIES OF KNOWLEDGE:  St. John Fisher School, Portland, whose 5th. and 6th. grade students participate in a “friendly” academic reading competition  with their Catholic school neighbor, St. Thomas More School; St. Clare School, Portland, is taking the next step in integrating technology into students’ core curriculum by launching a 1:1 program in its middle school. Since September of 2013, all 7th. graders have been using an iPad tablet, and 8th. graders have been using the mobile device of their choice for all school work. The “Digital Dragons,” specially trained students mentors, provide great IT support; Saint Mary’s Academy, Portland, is showing great leadership and modelling of its 1:1 program for ALL students, and has been especially considerate and generous in sharing its “cutting edge” technology and experience with other Catholic schools; St. Francis School, Roy, is planning a “career day” for its students during CSW to expose its students to the larger world of work. It is also encouraging participation in drawing classes for its K-5 students, the program known as the “Young Rembrandts”; St. Joseph School, Salem, has been engaged in a feasibility study to enhance its curricular program by re-opening its middle school division at the request of many parents, with permission given from the Dept. of Catholic Schools.

COMMUNITIES OF SERVICE:  Holy Cross School, Portland, has a renewed focus on service. Their goal for students is to live out the message of Jesus in a very tangible and concrete way. In addition to school-wide projects, each class also has an individual focus. For example, the 8th. graders visit Blanchet House monthly. 7th. graders visit Providence Fragile Children’s Unit monthly. 6th. graders clean up the neighborhood, and 5th. graders help at the Oregon Food Bank; St. John the Apostle, Oregon City, 7th. and 8th. grade classes have planned a special fundraiser for  the family of their middle school history and religion teacher whose wife suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on December 31. There are seven children in the family. The goal of the pancake fundraiser, the Friday before Ash Wednesday, is help the family with their overwhelming medical bills; The students of St. Thomas More School, Portland, have launched a new service program this year called HOPE---Helping Other People Everyday. Each class, with assistance from the school’s PTO, partners with a different local organization to provide assistance, supplies, and prayers for those in need. Students,  at every grade level, are enthusiastically getting out and working with the community; Jesuit High School students, Portland, on December 19, 2013, as a focus of” Faith in action” delivered food to 360 needy families, and “adopted” 125 families with gifts in addition to food gifts. Remarkably, too, JHS alumni delivered goods to 1600 families on December 21, 2013.

What more can I say?  Happy and blessed Catholic Schools Week!