Merged school starts new customs - Catholic Courier

Merged school starts new customs

Although St. Mary’s School in Waterloo and St. Patrick’s School in Seneca Falls closed at the end of the 2004-05 school year, many of their treasured traditions live on at the new St. John Bosco School in Seneca Falls.

The staff at St. John Bosco have made a concentrated effort to incorporate elements and practices from both St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s, said Mary Caffrey, principal. Whenever the faculty members begin to plan something new they first discuss what the two former schools used to do, and many times they are pleasantly surprised, she said.

“We didn’t find so many differences. What you find is Catholic schools tend to do a lot of the same things,” Caffrey said. “We found lots of ways we were able to do things they had been doing.”

Although there were many similarities between St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s, each school did have its own customs and programs. Whenever possible, these traditions are blended together to create new ones that carry on the legacies of St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s but are still unique to St. John Bosco, she said.

“We just have carried on the best from both places. We took certain ideas that both schools had and just made it ours,” Caffrey said.

St. John Bosco School’s Friday Finale is a perfect example of this blending of traditions, she noted. Friday Finale is a combination of two popular programs — Morning Program at St. Patrick’s and Monday-Morning Prayer at St. Mary’s.

Morning Program had been a staple at St. Patrick’s for more than a decade. Three mornings a week, students in kindergarten through third grade gathered in the gymnasium for 15 minutes to sing and pray. Individual students announced the date, the day’s lunch menu and the word of the day, and interested students were invited to come to the microphone, introduce themselves and welcome any family members who were present.

At St. Mary’s, the entire student body gathered in the gym each Monday morning to pray, sing, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, complete several morning exercises and listen to the word of the day, Caffrey said. Both traditions were beloved, and the staff at St. John Bosco wanted to implement a similar program without favoring one over the other, she added.

Instead, the staff decided to draw elements from both programs and incorporate them into Friday Finale, which is held once each week for students in kindergarten through third grade. Children in the school’s 4-year-old preschool class also started attending Friday Finale in late January, Caffrey said.

“It’s a nice way to end the week, and occasionally we bring the entire school together,” she said.

The teachers take turns planning Friday Finale, and the students take turns leading the Pledge of Allegiance, holding the flag, and announcing the date and word of the week. Each Friday Finale opens with prayer and ends with the students’ welcome to visitors. This is often the highlight of the program, Caffrey said.

At this point, students are invited to walk up to the microphone, say their names, and welcome relatives and friends who are visiting the school. If their family members can’t attend the program, the students can still introduce themselves and welcome someone else, such as a teacher, friend or the principal.

Friday Finale has been very popular so far, Caffrey noted.

“Kids love to have their parents see the ordinary things they do. It doesn’t always have to be big and special,” she said. “Parents have seen it as a valuable tool for helping kids become better public speakers.”

Anne Smith said her daughter, who is in first grade, looks forward to Friday Finale and has benefitted from it.

“I just think that it has helped to give her the confidence some kids need to get up and talk in front of a group of people,” Smith said.

Many adults are nervous about speaking in public, but Caffrey thinks children who have participated in Friday Finale might avoid some of these fears.

“If you’ve grown up doing it as a child, you don’t have those issues when you’re an adult,” Caffrey said.

Friday Finale has also helped foster a sense of community within the school, which includes 95 students in kindergarten through seventh grade and another 35 in the preschool programs. Although the student population includes more students from St. Patrick’s than from St. Mary’s, Caffrey said she hasn’t seen any divisions or problems between students from different schools.

“That has been very smooth. Children are terribly resilient. They are amazingly able to bounce back. It’s harder for people who remember how things were when they went to school, and they really want to replicate that,” Caffrey said.

Although the school consolidation may have been more painful for the parents, they have been extremely supportive of the new school nonetheless, she added.

“There is just such a positive spirit for the school. I think that is partly because their children are happy, and they just seem to be very committed to Catholic education,” Caffrey said.

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