Schools mark bittersweet Catholic Schools Week - Catholic Courier

Schools mark bittersweet Catholic Schools Week

Quarterback Tom Brady may rest a little easier.

He’s got the backing of 62 students at St. John the Evangelist School in Spencerport, who picked his New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 3. The other 60 students said they will be rooting for quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants during the Super Bowl.

The students’ responses were tallied as part of the school’s Catholic Schools Week “Soup-er” Bowl Day, on which students dressed down in sports T-shirts and jerseys — some nearly as long as the students who wore them — and brought in nonperishable foods and soups to be donated to an area food cupboard.

The event was just one example of the service, silliness and sadness with which students throughout the Diocese of Rochester marked Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, just days after learning that 13 diocesan Catholic schools in Monroe County would close and that some in other counties were at risk.

Here are some examples of diocesan Catholic Schools Week celebrations:

* As parent volunteers sat in chairs around the walls of the gymnasium at St. Margaret Mary School in Irondequoit Jan. 30, their children skated circles around the gym. The school is slated to close at the end of the 2007-08 school year.

“It kind of takes their minds off of the closing of the school,” said Kathy Woods, who has a daughter in fifth grade. “They’ve been looking forward to this.”

The skating party is an annual tradition, according to fourth-grade teacher Paula Cardella. In addition to skating, St. Margaret Mary School had a sock hop, an ice cream social, a dress-down day, and younger children partnered with older children for prayer and activities.

“This is the last time they are ever going to have roller skating at St. Margaret Mary’s, so it’s really sad,” said sixth-grader Sarah Grizard, 11.

Sixth-grader Samuel Melidona, 12, said his classmates were already preparing to change schools at the end of the year, so he noted that the fifth-graders were more upset about the school closing.

“(The fifth-graders) were looking forward to being the oldest people in the school” next year, Samuel said.

The impending closings were not the center of focus for the week, parents said.

“Nothing’s changed as far as Catholic Schools Week,” said Elizabeth Shafer, who has four children at St. Margaret Mary and a fifth who has graduated from the school. “Everyone is supporting Catholic schools. They are supporting them and having a good time.”

The week also is intended to support teachers at Catholic schools, said Michel Major-Melidona, who has three children at the school, including Samuel Melidona.

“They have more questions about the future than the kids do,” Major-Melidona said. “Where are they supposed to go? This is their whole life.”

* In addition to voting for their Super Bowl favorites and donating canned goods, students at St. John the Evangelist School in Spencerport were rewarded with a Jan. 30 visit from Rochester Raging Rhinos’ mascot Rex the Rhino. The book Mean Soup was read to the students and they ate chicken noodle soup.

The soup and related events won high marks from third-grader John Charleton, 9.

“I also got to see everyone in their sports equipment and stuff,” said John, who wore a Cardinals T-shirt and was rooting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Other events for the week at St. John the Evangelist included a fourth-grade balloon volleyball game at a nursing home; writing compositions about Catholic schools or their school; a bingo game that raised money for orphanage in Grenada; and days on which students dressed in pajamas and as their favorite storybook characters.

Parent Rachel Zapata-Bermudez, who was volunteering at the “Soup-er” Bowl event, is one of the most recent arrivals at the school. Her daughter, Angelica, had attended the school as a pre-kindergarten student, but then the family moved to Korea. They recently moved back, and Angelica is now a student in Lynda Mueller’s first-grade class.

Although the announcement that the school will close is sad, Zapata-Bermudez said teachers are not dwelling on the future.

“The teachers are giving them everything,” Zapata-Bermudez said. “They are not thinking about the future. They are thinking about the present. I am volunteering because you never know what things are going to happen.”

* At Holy Trinity School in Webster, another school slated to close, students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade worked in small groups Jan. 28 to create 48 fleece blankets that will be donated to the Catholic Family Center’s homeless shelters.

* Diana Oravec, principal of Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception School, said students are taking to heart the week’s theme of “Lighting the Way.”

“Everyone is learning about and actively participating in what it means to light the way in their school, parish, families and the community,” she said. “The students are really responding to our service project for the week — collecting nonperishable food for the various food pantries in Ithaca and collecting personal-care items for Catholic Charities.”

Oravec also noted that the school has spliced lots of fun into Catholic Schools Week. The long list of events includes Reading in Your Pajamas Day; a parent/staff vs. student basketball game, which was won by the students in the final seconds; Teacher Appreciation Day with lunch prepared by the parents; a Winter Reading Festival; open house; a Quiz Bowl conducted by Father Leo Reinhardt, parish pastor; “Tour the Solar System” with guest speakers from Cornell University; and a Western-themed Student Appreciation Day with rodeo events and contests, a sing-a-long led by parish youth minister Rich Rasmussen, a special chuck-wagon lunch “and our very own ‘Immaculate’s Got Talent’ Wild West Show,” Oravec said.

* Career Day Jan. 31 was one of the week’s highlights for students at St. Michael School in Penn Yan.

“Different people from the community will come in and talk about what they do for their line of work,” explained Dr. James Tette, principal, prior to the event.

One man who worked with a local construction company planned to bring his backhoe to the school and put it through its paces during a demonstration in the school parking lot, Tette said. Another man who works for a local ambulance company planned to bring a new ambulance to the school and explain its features to the children, he added.

On Jan. 29 the students enjoyed ice cream sundaes during their lunch breaks, and on Jan. 30 the entire school went bowling. Students invited their grandparents to school Feb. 1 for Mass at noon followed by lunch and some free time to play board games or simply sit and talk, Tette said.

Students at Catholic schools elsewhere in the Finger Lakes also enjoyed a number of special activities.

* Students at St. Michael School in Newark and St. Joseph School in Auburn invited family members and friends to eat lunch with them at the school for Special Persons Days. On Jan. 30, Student Appreciation Day, the Newark students received goody bags and took part in a schoolwide bingo game. On Feb. 1, eighth-graders took on the faculty members in a Spirit Day volleyball game. Meanwhile, St. Joseph students enjoyed jump-rope demonstrations, indoor beach parties and poetry recitals.

* Students at St. Mary School in Canandaigua took part in the school’s annual cultural luncheon Jan. 31. During this year’s “Yummy European Feast” the children sampled food from France, Italy and Ireland before the day concluded with the seventh- vs. eighth-grade volleyball game.

* Auburn Mayor Michael Quill visited Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic School in Auburn Jan. 30, a day after the school’s students had enjoyed a Hawaiian-themed luncheon at the Ukrainian National Center.

Contains reporting by Amy Kotlarz, Jennifer Burke and Mike Latona.

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