Catholic school students to celebrate education rooted in faith, service

Students from Catholic schools throughout Arizona pray during the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in this 2014 file photo. Catholic Schools Week will be observed Jan. 25-31 this year. (Catholic Sun file photo)
Students from Catholic schools throughout Arizona pray during the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in this 2014 file photo. Catholic Schools Week will be observed Jan. 25-31 this year. (Catholic Sun file photo)

Catholic schools are different. Its 1.97 million students nationwide can freely discuss religion across all subjects and they celebrate being in school.

Catholic Schools Week, the annual observance highlighting the opportunities a faith-filled education provides to young people and its contributions to the church, local communities and the nation, is Jan. 25-31.

This year’s theme continues what students and all who help them succeed celebrated last year. “Catholic schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” is aimed at sharing the pillars or measures by which any Catholic school can be judged.

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Catholic Schools Week Jan. 25-31

Jan. 25: Open house, enrollment info at most preschool and elementary schools schools following morning Masses

Jan. 27: 6:30 p.m., Diocesan Spelling Bee, St. Francis Xavier School, 4715 N. Central Ave., Phoenix

Jan. 28: 10 a.m., All-Schools Mass, Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix

Jan. 28: lunchtime, All-Schools rally at State Capitol

Use and follow the hashtag, #CSW15 on social media to see what Catholic School students across the country are doing to celebrate their faith-filled education. If you’re affiliated with a school in the @PhoenixDiocese, feel free to include it and @thecatholicsun in your Catholic Schools Week social media posts.

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“One difference that is noted immediately is the community atmosphere that the students experience when they arrive. They feel welcomed and safe,” MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent, said. “The fact that God can be talked about all the time is a huge difference for the students.”

The Diocese of Phoenix currently has 14,000 students across six high school and 28 elementary campuses. They’re all grounded in faith. Students learn to begin and end the day, class period and lunchtime in memorized or spontaneous prayer.

They regularly gather for the liturgy and opportunities to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. They also gain a deep understanding of salvation history.

The faith perspective translates to all other subject areas with the academic bar set high. Mueller said freshmen, particularly those coming from public schools, note the additional homework and rigorous courses. Students must figure out how to complete their schoolwork on time and of a superior quality.

Children as young as third grade are meeting that challenge, especially at St. John Bosco School. They scored in the 89th to 99th percentile on Measures of Academic Progress testing across math, reading and language curricula. Students at the Ahwatukee school are the only ones in the diocese who take the computer adaptive assessment from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which adapts to each student’s level of learning, providing an informative tool for teachers to further differentiated instruction in the classroom.

“MAP is used as a national norm test at schools across the country and internationally to pinpoint individual student progress and achievement,” said Marie Axman, principal of St. John Bosco. “We are extremely proud of our students for their significant strides and top scores.”

The school is now in its third year of MAP testing with the periodic assessment scheduled for this month.

Students from every elementary school will face off in the Diocesan Spelling Bee Jan. 27 at St. Francis Xavier School. The oral test pits the top speller from each campus against each other. Fourth- and fifth-graders often compete well against eighth-graders.

Community service

Catholic schools are also communities that find ways to serve others, even if their own campuses are under-resourced. Each Catholic school in the diocese hosts regular charity drives to collect items, funds and prayers for those in need.

A diocesan-wide service project, the Bottles for Bethlehem effort — will culminate during the diocesan Catholic Schools Week Mass Jan. 28 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. The Catholic Schools Office will present a check to the Order of Malta totaling the loose change and dollar bills students collected throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. Funds will be sent to the Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, located steps away from the place of Christ’s birth.