Every Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to recognize the value and contributions of Catholic education to individual students, the Church, and the world.
During the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, 2024, the more than 6,200 students enrolled in the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools celebrated their schools, their Parishes, the nation, vocations, their families, and their teachers in a variety of ways.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated a Mass for Catholic school students in Collier County at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples on Jan. 31. The Mass, which included several concelebrating priests from Parishes throughout Collier County, involved the eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Ann Catholic schools in Naples, Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria, and affiliated Royal Palm Academy in Naples. In addition, the entire student body of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples participated, having walked from their nearby campus to the Mass, and afterward escorted the younger students back for a day of food and fun.
The Mass fell on the Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest, founder of a religious order and supporter of youth and Catholic education. The students at St. John Neumann are very familiar with St. John Bosco, as the school is led by religious women who are Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.
Bishop Dewane noted that the Gospel reading for the day (Mark 6:1-6), which recounts Jesus’ return to his hometown accompanied by His disciples was most appropriate. The locals, having known Jesus since childhood, were astonished by the wisdom the Lord had, and with a lack of faith, dismissed and took offense of Him.
“Do we dismiss Christ from our life?” the Bishop asked. “As Catholic students, you know the good works and miracles Jesus performed. How faithful are you of placing God before all others? That first Commandment. How faithful are you about going to Sunday Mass? It is a concern that I have. Is that not being dismissive of Christ in your life?”
No matter what disconnection they have from Christ, Bishop Dewane told the students that they need to set about to correct any dismissiveness they may have of Christ.
“When we sin, that is exactly what we do,” the Bishop continued. “Don’t be controlled by others. Have Christ be the influence. We all need to hear that call of the Lord and not dismiss Jesus Christ. Listen to what He has to say. You have been blessed with the graces to be more the young men and women of God you are called to be.”
Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), Catholic Schools Week 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. The weekend of Jan. 27-28, ahead of Catholic Schools Week, students spoke at many Parish Masses to explain the benefits of their education.
On Jan. 29, St. Martha Catholic School and St. Mary Academy celebrated their community through a Living Rosary Prayer Service. Students joined together as a community, prayed the rosary, and read special intentions throughout the service. Sr. Limeteze Pierre Gilles, School Sister of Notre Dame, was introduced to the school community, as throughout the week she taught the students how they can live out the promise of the Pope Francis Encyclical, Laudato Si, in helping the earth, specifically for those less fortunate living in Haiti without electricity and running water.
At Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice, the morning prayer service and assembly on Jan. 29, included a “Catholic Schools Week” proclamation from the Venice Vice Mayor. In addition, the students collected and donated more than 300 sets of pajamas which were donated to a local charity.
At Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers, the week kicked off with a school Mass at neighboring St. Cecilia Parish. Following the Mass, there was the traditional announcement of the “Christ The Teacher” award winner, Mary Dakin, chair of the English department. When announcing the honoree, it was noted that Dakin’s voice and personality are transcendent; and to know her is to love her. Dakin was able to enjoy the moment with her family and was rewarded with the afternoon off.
On Jan. 30, the student body of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic School celebrated with a beautiful Eucharistic Procession. Led by Father Casey Jones, Pastor and school Chaplain, the Most Blessed Sacrament was carried in a monstrance through the public streets surrounding the school before concluding with Benediction in Saint Elizabeth Seton Church. Before the procession began, the students were told that a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction is a special way of proclaiming to the world, as well as reminding themselves, that Jesus Christ is their King and that they believe in His Real Presence in the Eucharist.
These are just a few examples of some of the activities which took place in the first part of Catholic Schools Week 2024. Please check back in the Florida Catholic next week to learn about more of the festivities!