St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had a close community to help her open the first U.S. Catholic school. Today, it takes countless more to sustain each campus.
Those who have taught, volunteered or served at a Catholic school will join current students, alumni and parents plus private supporters and those in the state legislature for an array of Catholic Schools Week celebrations Jan. 31-Feb. 6. The annual nationwide observance marks a time to focus on the value Catholic education provides and the impact it has on local churches and communities.
It’s also a time schools extend invitations via open houses to encourage new students to register. Some 14,575 students attend one of seven preschools, 28 elementary and six high schools in the Diocese of Phoenix but empty seats remain.
“Students new to Catholic schools should be proud that they are able to attend a Catholic school and learn about Jesus and the gospels,” said MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent. “They should know how important their education is and that learning their faith is first, becoming disciples of Christ and serving one another.”
Catholic Schools Week
#CSW16 Jan. 31-Feb. 6
- after Masses Jan. 31: open houses at many elementary schools
- 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2: Diocesan Spelling Bee, St. Francis Xavier, 4715 N. Central Ave.
- 10 a.m. Feb. 3: All school Mass, Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave.
- noon Feb. 3: All school rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza, 1700 W. Washington St.
To that end, the nationwide theme for Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Each day offers a sub-theme helping Catholic schools celebrate their impact on or partnership with the parish, community, students, the nation, vocations, faculty, staff, volunteers and families.
Each Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week, celebrated Feb. 3 this year, is National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools. Mueller said the theme allows local students, staff, educators and donors to gather with similar groups from the dioceses of Tucson and Gallup at the Arizona State Capitol. The state’s bishops will meet with key lawmakers that morning and some from both groups will briefly address students during a noontime rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza.
“The rally is our time to thank the governor and lawmakers for the tax credit,” Mueller said.
It allows donors, parents and corporations to get a dollar-for-dollar credit on taxes — up to certain maximums depending on one’s filing status — for donating to a school tuition organization.
“This is a huge help in allowing parents to choose Catholic schools for their children even if they don’t have the resources to be able to pay the tuition,” Mueller said.
Private funding efforts such as the annual Night of Hope benefit also helps. The gala last fall netted $120,000 for immediate scholarships and $18,000 for the “Today’s Children Tomorrow’s Leaders Endowment Fund.”
Students from various Catholic high schools across Arizona will lead the rally’s crowd in cheers, showcase musical talent and share testimonies about their Catholic school experience. Even if students aren’t Catholic, some families choose such a learning environment due to its high academic standards that integrates values, culture and life plus teacher and parent dedication to help all students succeed.
Mueller said gathering more than 1,000 students in one place for the rally “speaks volumes of just what we are about as Catholic schools and what we believe.”
Students will fill Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral just before the rally to pray as a statewide Catholic school community during Mass. They will spend the remainder of Catholic Schools Week honoring those who make their individual campus a thriving family atmosphere via special breakfasts, friendly contests, service projects and guest speakers.