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Catholic Schools Week events focus on faith, excellence and service

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Food drives for charity, letter writing and school spirit events are among activities Catholic schools in the Arlington diocese are planning to mark National Catholic Schools Week Jan. 31-Feb. 6. This year’s theme is Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.


The annual weeklong celebration of Catholic education in the United States was created in 1974 by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). It is usually celebrated the last week in January with special Masses, assemblies and other activities for students, families, parishioners and the community. Events around the diocese and around the nation will be highlighted on social media using the hashtag #CSW21.


Renee White, assistant superintendent for enrollment and marketing for the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools, said many of the events center around the three parts of this year’s theme. In keeping with the focus on service, for example, students at several diocesan schools are holding charitable drives for food, clothing and socks to benefit parish and community food pantries, Catholic Charities and other recipients.


All Saints Catholic School in Manassas is planning a food collection to benefit its Bethany Food Pantry, with the theme “All Saints Souper Bowl.” Students will collect soups, cornbread and muffin mix, and other winter-season nonperishables. To focus on faith, All Saints will host author Karen Keifer, who will speak about her book “Drawing God” Feb. 1.


At Queen of Apostles School in Alexandria, students will emphasize excellence with a read-a-thon and will dress up as their favorite virtuous character from a book, to compete for a $20 Amazon gift certificate. The read-a-thon will encourage students to “drop everything and read for an hour,” the school said.


Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria will celebrate its Salesian Catholic community and raise funds for Louverture Cleary School, a Catholic school in Haiti that has had a long relationship with Ireton. The school is combining two celebrations, Catholic Schools Week and Feast Week for St. Francis de Sales, the patron of the school, which was founded by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in 1964.


White said several schools are planning activities to celebrate vocations, including sending spiritual bouquets with letters of appreciation to priests, seminarians and their parents. At St. John the Evangelist School in Warrenton, students will celebrate a wide range of religious vocations and professions, such as doctors, lawyers, astronauts and teachers. A Zoom session for parents will include a virtual “Game of Life,” the school said.


In celebration of community, some schools will honor members of the military and first responders by sending gratefulness letters. At Holy Spirit Catholic School in Annandale, students will participate in a service project called Operation Gratitude. Students in several grades will write letters of appreciation to first responders, veterans, new recruits and deployed service personnel. The letters will then be included in care packages.


At Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg, each class will be assigned a first responder group to thank, including Stafford County police, fire and emergency medical technicians, and doctors and nurses at local hospitals. Some may send thank you cards, while other classes may send a video message or find other ways to show appreciation.


Many schools will use the week to plan fun events where students will dress up to show school spirit or highlight favorite books or quotes. St. Leo the Great Catholic School in Fairfax will hold several spirit-wear days, including Favorite Sports Jersey Day, Class Color Day and Crazy Sock Day. At Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Vienna, there will be an “out of uniform” theme and a Spirit Day, as well as a schoolwide quilt art project, and time for games and activities including a “digital escape room.” At St. Patrick School in Fredericksburg, the school plans to take photos or short videos of students in their favorite places around the school and ask them to say why they enjoy those places. The school said it plans to share the narratives on its website and on Facebook.


Dress-up events at St. John the Beloved Academy in McLean include a Mad Hatter Day, where students will be invited to wear a hat to match a favorite story or book, or a hat they own that tells a story. Students will share their stories in the classroom. Also planned is a “Wit and Whimsy Day,” where students will share a favorite quote and dress up to illustrate it.


Because the coronavirus pandemic has limited public access to the schools for safety reasons, many schools that otherwise would host open houses for potential applicants and parents have created “virtual open houses,” to post on their websites. These videos feature tours of the school, highlights of events and comments from teachers and students talking about the school.  


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021