Catholic education gets deserved spotlight

Behind all of the fun and games which take place during the celebration of Catholic Schools Week each year is faith, which shines forth in everything that is done at all 15 of the Diocesan Catholic schools.

Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024) provides an annual opportunity to celebrate and share the good news about Catholic Schools. The theme, “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community,” focuses on the important spiritual, academic, and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education firmly rooted in the Truth of the Gospel.

Grandparents Day at St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy in Sarasota began with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Feb. 2. Grandparents Day is a special time when the students can show off their school to their elders. Following Mass, the youngest students performed songs, before classroom visits and more fun was had by young and old alike.

Father Leo Patalinghug was a special guest at Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers on Feb. 2. A Catholic priest from Baltimore, Maryland, and the founder of Plating Grace, with a mission to strengthen families and communities around the dinner table, Father Patalinghug encouraged the students to become superheroes for our world. An internationally renowned conference speaker, author, TV and radio host, Father told the students to always turn to the Lord, as this is where they will find real strength.

Another key component of Catholic Schools Week is “Community,” and many of the schools took the opportunity to have students complete local service projects.

One such service project included packing and donating emergency food bags (filled with snacks and easy open canned goods) and hygiene bags (filled with toothpaste, deodorant, baby wipes and more), at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Port Charlotte on Feb. 1. The items were donated for distribution by the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition. The emergency food bags are deemed essential by the Coalition for the unsheltered homeless because they don’t always have the means to cook. The hygiene bags were made readily available to anyone in need, as well as to be included during the Homeless Coalition’s weekly food pantry.

Service projects can also take place at one’s own school, as middle schoolers at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Fort Myers found out on a Feb. 1. The students cleaned up the school prayer garden. The area includes a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto complete with a water feature, as well as Stations of the Cross. The students cleared branches, leaves, and other yard debris, then put down mulch and put young plants into the soil. They also cleaned off the statues and the water feature. They later had a chance to enjoy the fruits of the labor when they returned the same day to pray the Stations of the Cross.

Bradenton Police Department Chief Melanie Bevan as well as K-9 Officer Liberty and his handler were special guests at St. Joseph Catholic School on Jan. 30. The students learned about what the police do to protect the community. The youngest students met K-9 Liberty and give him a few pets and belly rubs.

Sports, too, were cause for celebration during Catholic Schools Week, especially at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, where Kali Barrett, a junior girl’s basketball player, reached a milestone on the court on Jan. 30, with her 1,000th career point. Kali has been on a journey filled with passion, perseverance, and countless hours of hard work. Congratulations!

Praying the Patriotic Rosary and wearing red, white, and blue, were part of celebrating the nation on Jan. 31, at Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice. Prayers were given for all 50 states, as well as for all local, state, and national government leaders.

Each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic schools participated in a variety of activities throughout this special week which commemorated its 50th anniversary this year.