Catholic Schools Week began with an all-schools Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral on Monday, January 27th. The schools in attendance filled nearly every pew, with only a few spaces in the back for family and community members. Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz celebrated the Mass, and members of the school communities participated in the liturgical ministries.
Before Mass, each school brought forth an item as a symbol of their school. Holy Rosary Academy was represented with a rosary, while Lumen Christi High School featured a picture of St. Michael, the school’s patron. Our Lady of the Valley School was represented with a collage of photos depicting the tenets of Catholic social teaching. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton School used an image of their namesake, as she is the patroness of Catholic schools. Saint Mary’s School in Kodiak joined the community in spirit and was represented at the altar with a statue of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.
The readings, prayers of the faithful, and music were all provided by a mix of students from each school. The music ministry also included a handbell choir performance of “O Sanctissima” by students from Our Lady of the Valley School.
During his homily, Archbishop Schwietz congratulated the students on their achievements and reminded them to work hard to do good in the face of adversity by recognizing our God-given human dignity. “One of the great gifts we have in our Catholic Schools is learning that each one of us is created by God, a God who loves each one of us individually and personally,” said Archbishop Schwietz. “And so each one of us is a person with great dignity, and each one of us is called to treat each other with great dignity. We are called to honor people, to be kind to them, to help them help each other. That’s what we learn in our Catholic schools, as a family of faith. Our Catholic faith teaches us about the dignity of each other, and that each one of us is called upon to journey through this love to the next life, where we will be with God forever. And while we are on this journey, we are called to help each other on the way, to assist each other in the ways that we can help.”
To celebrate Catholic Schools Week, Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage honored the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas. “Our library is named after St. Thomas Aquinas, so we’ll have a celebration with little dog bone cookies because the dog is a symbol of the Dominicans,” said Lisa Williams, Principal of Holy Rosary Academy. “The elementary is also doing a sledding field trip. We’re also participating in School Choice Week, a national organization, through Mat-Su Central.” Students celebrated with a pizza day on Tuesday. They capped off the week with Holy Rosary Academy’s Drama production of Shakespeare’s “A Winter’s Tale,” performed by the high school community.
Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage celebrated Catholic Schools Week by focusing on gratitude. Each student was thanked with a note from their teacher, and the groups that support students (faculty, staff, administrators, board, parents, and Archangel Attic volunteers) were each thanked in a unique way. Students also created “prayer chains,” with one link for each prayer, to deliver to parish priests at the upcoming March convocation. Finally, the students wrote thank-you notes to firefighters, police officers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and government representatives, thanking them for their service. The Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital also received 24 packages for their patrons to support them and thank them for their service to our country.
Our Lady of the Valley School in Wasilla held two concerts after Mass at Providence Hospital and the Monastery of Perpetual Adoration, where they sang in English, Spanish, and Latin. “Music is one of our biggest ministries,” said Joyce Lund, principal at the school. They also celebrated with penmanship and a contest, Jump Rope for Heart, an ice-skating trip and field events. “Last Sunday, we held an outreach mission for Fr. Scott Garrett, the flying pilot priest,” said Lund. They raised over $17,000. “Our focus has always been on ministry to the community and sharing our enthusiasm for our faith.” Their week ended Sunday with an interfaith prayer service and concert at the American Legion.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Anchorage gave back to the community by participating in a “Souper Bowl” competition all week long, where each grade competed against other classes to see who could bring in the most cans for their canned food drive. They also hosted a vocations panel, a spelling bee, and a talent show. Several days were also special “dress” days, including one day of dressing up as their favorite book character. Also, the 6th-grade class visited Lumen Christi High School for “Move Up Day,” a tour of the school and to meet and greet some of the students. The week concluded with an Open House after Mass on Sunday.
Saint Mary’s School in Kodiak celebrated Catholic Schools Week with a special surprise: the students were “blessed with” a snow day mid-week. They also participated in a spelling bee, students-versus-teachers trivia games and game day, Minute-to-Win-It competition, and a school-wide scavenger hunt. Students and teachers also created videos to share their school spirit as they prepared “Why I Love SMS” video projects. In addition to a few unique school dress days, on Thursday, students came dressed to school as their “future selves.” They had the opportunity to hear from local community members on how they shine their light in their professions. The week concluded with a Friday Fish Fry and an open-gym afternoon on Saturday.
Though each school celebrated Catholic Schools Week in its own way, there’s a common thread of service, gratitude, and joyful community that ties us all together as one in Christ. “The spirit of holiness, the spirit of God, is given to each of us, as we carry out our work in our schools and in our relationships with one another,” said Archbishop Schwietz. “We should all care for one another out of the love God has for us, with which God cares for each one of us. May the Lord continue to bless you as you journey together, care for each other, and help each other as students and as brothers and sisters in the family of faith.”