St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School, in Grosse Pointe Park, recently was awarded a $10,000 Spirit of Innovation Grant from the Catholic Foundation of Michigan.

St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School, in Grosse Pointe Park, recently was awarded a $10,000 Spirit of Innovation Grant from the Catholic Foundation of Michigan.

Photo provided by St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School

St. Clare of Montefalco has ‘spirit’

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 28, 2021


GROSSE POINTE PARK — Students, families and teachers at St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School are finding ways to bond with each other and build stronger relationships while valuing their diverse backgrounds.

The school was recently awarded the Spirit of Innovation Grant from the Catholic Foundation of Michigan. The $10,000 grant was presented Dec. 1 — on Giving Tuesday — to the school for its Unity in Diversity project. The Catholic Foundation of Michigan awarded a total of $120,750 in community grants to southeastern Michigan parishes, schools and nonprofit organizations during the foundation’s third annual grant award celebration.

“The focus of the project is to bring various communities that exist within the school and parish together to unite them around acknowledging and celebrating their differences through diversity and inclusion training and intervention,” a Catholic Foundation of Michigan press releases states.

In 2019, as a direct response to the Archbishop of Detroit’s message in Unleash the Gospel, the Catholic Foundation was called upon to create the Spirit of Innovation granting fund. The Catholic Foundation of Michigan, which has offices in Bloomfield Hills and Livonia, inspires charitable giving and assists donors in providing for the long-term needs of the Catholic parishes, schools, ministries and nonprofit organizations of southeast Michigan.

Last spring, organizations were encouraged to submit applications for the grant. According to Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, it was a competitive grant process. Organizations that applied did not have to be of the Catholic faith, but they needed to embody Catholic values.

“Catholic teachings tell us to see and treat people with images and likenesses of God. We were looking for something creative, inspiring, out-of-the box with our Spirit of Innovation Grant,” Moloney said. St. Clare of Montefalco’s Unity in Diversity project caught the committee’s attention and was chosen for the grant. “What we loved at St. Clare of Montefalco was being able to engage completely with folks who come from a different background.”

According to St. Clare of Montefalco School Principal Ann K. Crowley, the school’s families come from 21 different ZIP codes in the metropolitan area. With the grant, school officials will seek the help of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion to bring understanding to the unique needs of the different groups at St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School.

“We are diverse in so many ways. Truly it is obvious that our St. Clare of Montefalco Parish represents the identity of the Catholic Church in the greater Detroit metro area,” Crowley said in an email. “We do not shy away from difficult conversations around differences we have in our adult world. The operative word in our identity is the pronoun, ‘we.’”

Crowley said Unity in Diversity began as a smaller project last year. The goal was to bring together staff and parents to understand “each other relative to all the young people having an identity within the community.” Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some discussions weren’t completed, “but the objective remained ever present with a need to address and complete those conversations,” Crowley said.

Through Unity in Diversity, school officials will ask adults in the community to model what the school’s young people already demonstrate with each other in class. Even with the pandemic, St. Clare of Montefalco began the 2020-2021 school year with in-person learning. Because of that, many new families joined the school looking for face-to-face instruction, although parents have not been able to enter the school because of the virus.

“The young people in the school represent the presence of openness and innocence. The student population from preschool through grade 8 have a presence of being all about the ‘we,’” Crowley said. “They unite around being classmates and model Christianity daily in the relationships they have with each other during and after school.”

One goal has been trying to bring together families new to St. Clare of Montefalco with those already established at the school. The school went virtual temporarily in mid-November because of the pandemic. According to Crowley, during this time, students were asking their parents to meet up after school.  

“This was new and inspiring. White and Black families were having play dates together. Old and new families were getting to appreciate each other, with the children as the connectors,” the school principal said. “Slowly, it was obvious friendships were developing. Slowly, the families seemed to be modeling the children’s identity of ‘we.’ The old and new families were beginning to meet and unknowingly internalizing what the school families always promoted — their collective ‘we.’”

According to the website, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion was originally founded in 1941 to mediate religious differences. Over time, the Roundtable evolved to also mediate cultural and racial differences. Today, the Roundtable serves as a human relations organization whose purpose is to overcome discrimination and racism by crossing generational, geographic, racial, religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries.