Rochester Diocese's schools find ways to show kids they care - Catholic Courier

Rochester Diocese’s schools find ways to show kids they care

They may have been physically spread out throughout Geneva and the surrounding towns and villages, but for 30 minutes on March 27 the various members of the St. Francis-St. Stephen School community were united virtually before the Blessed Sacrament.

Father Carlos Sanchez, parochial vicar at Geneva’s Our Lady of Peace Parish, offered the school community the opportunity to participate in adoration with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament via a live Facebook video. During the half-hour of adoration, he presented to God prayers the schoolchildren had written, asking for the end of the global pandemic of the coronavirus.

“Students, teachers, parents and some of our parishioners felt united as a community and touched by this beautiful and special moment,” Father Sanchez told the Catholic Courier.

The virtual adoration represents just one of the many ways members of local Catholic-school communities have found to come together and support one another without violating the current social-distancing regulations enacted to stem the spread of COVID-19. School buildings may be closed and public gatherings may have been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean members of the school community have stopped caring for one another, according to local school leaders.

The faculty and staff of St. Lawrence School in Greece recently expressed their care and concern for their students through a digital slideshow that was emailed to school families March 30. The slideshow was set to music and opened with a video clip of Principal Frank Arvizzigno telling school families he prayed for them each day, missed them all and looked forward to seeing them back in school.

“Stay safe, and God bless,” Arvizzigno said, before the video clip was replaced by a montage of photos of faculty and staff members holding up signs telling students how much they were missed.

“The faculty and staff were extremely excited to do this,” Arvizzigno explained. “It had been a long time since they had seen and interacted with their students, and they were grateful to be given this opportunity to brighten their day with a positive message.”

St. Lawrence parent Randi Boulis helped the faculty and staff put the slideshow together because, as an educator herself, she understood how helpless they likely were feeling.

“We can send work home, email support or hold virtual classes, but nothing compares to being in our classroom with our kids,” said Boulis, who is a speech language pathologist for the Greece Central School District. “I know how deeply dedicated the St. Lawrence staff is and how much they all miss the students. ‚Ķ They all expressed their love in such special ways, which is what made the video so meaningful and touching.”

The faculty and staff at Holy Cross School in the Charlotte section of Rochester also sent school families a video message of support and encouragement, according to Principal Mary Martell. And on April 5, they put on a Palm Sunday “parked parade” for school families, she added.

During this social-distancing-compliant parade, faculty and staff lined up their vehicles, which they’d decorated with inspirational messages for the families, on Lighthouse Street and waved while school families drove past them.

“The teachers loved this idea and thought it would be so special and so in line with the mission of our school to do it on Palm Sunday to strengthen our faith, build our hope and bring a smile to all of our school family,” Martell said.

Teachers at All Saints Academy in Corning, meanwhile, planned a virtual Easter egg hunt for their students and online show-and-tell days for their kindergarten and preschool students, said Principal TJ Verzillo.

“We believe it is important to still have some fun, nonacademic interactions because we are a family here at All Saints Academy,” Verzillo explained. “That includes the school and parish families, by providing social online events like guest book readers and ASA sing-a-long days. We are showing our families that community extends past the school walls.”

Such community and unity is important during this time of mandatory distance, said Father Sanchez, who planned the March 27 virtual adoration in Geneva as a way to unite Our Lady of Peace parishioners with members of the St. Francis-St. Stephen School community. Earlier in March, he’d asked students to write prayers asking for the end of the pandemic, and during the adoration he placed the letters in front of the Blessed Sacrament and asked Jesus to accept and receive the prayers.

“I was touched by the beauty, simplicity and faith of every single word and image. ‚Ķ I put all the letters on the altar in front of the monstrance and offered incense as a symbol that their prayers will come to Jesus like the incense rises to heaven,” Father Sanchez said.

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