Catholic Schools Week celebrates education, traditions and religion

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published January 20, 2016

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METRO DETROIT — Celebrating communities of “faith, knowledge and service,” local Catholic schools will highlight their efforts during National Catholic Schools Week Jan. 31-Feb. 6.

“Each day we have special events planned ... celebrating who we are and why our school is special,” said Julie DeGrez, principal of St. Germaine Catholic School in St. Clair Shores. “We’re able to learn about and practice our faith every single day.

“The ability to do that sets the tone for the atmosphere they are learning in: the virtues, values. That’s all included and it’s expected and they know it. We’re highly successful because of it.”

National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education across the country and always begins the last Sunday in January. It was first celebrated in 1974, and schools across the country observe the week with Masses, open houses and activities for their communities, focusing on the value that Catholic education provides to young people, according to the National Catholic Education Association.

While academics and athletics are important, what sets Catholic schools apart from public or other private schools is that most teachers incorporate their faith vision in the classroom, said Paul Stuligross, director of campus ministry at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory. Teachers aim to challenge students to do their best in both areas. Stuligross said that teachers help students to “become formed as Catholic, Christian men and women.”

During Catholic Schools Week, theology classes at St. Mary’s will discuss why Catholic schools are important and what they are trying to accomplish, Stuligross said. 

As young people are inundated with social media and hectic schedules, Stuligross said that “it’s difficult for them to realize who they are.”

“It’s tough enough growing up and figuring out who you are. It’s even more difficult when you have so many voices trying to steer you. Catholic schools help each individual student determine who they are in God’s eyes and who they are meant to be, whether that be a doctor, a lawyer, a priest, a sister (or) an engineer. And I think if we can transform the heart, eventually we can transform the business world and hopefully our community at large,” Stuligross said.

St. Germaine will kick off the week with an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 31 as a way for the community to see what the school has to offer. There will be basketball games to watch, a Scholastic Book Fair, and visitors can explore the school and check out its standardized test scores. 

“They are able to come in and see our classrooms, meet our teachers and support staff, learn about our educational programs and extracurriculars,” DeGrez said. 

The remainder of the week celebrates “who we are and why our school is special,” she said, and includes Buddy Day, Game Day, Switch-It-Up Day and more. Third-graders will put on a wax museum of historic figures, and some eighth-grade students, their teacher and DeGrez will head to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit to celebrate the Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic Schools Week liturgy.

“It’s a fun week,” she said, celebrating “all the parts that make up our school community: our teachers, our students, our parents, our ability to learn about and practice our faith in school.” 

Having the ability to integrate their faith into the school day sets the schools apart from their secular counterparts, DeGrez said.

“The students who are here want to be here, as do their parents want them here,” she said. “They’re making sacrifices every day to afford having their child in this environment.”

To find a Catholic school near you, or for more information, visit www.aod.org.

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