Catholic Schools Week focuses on community

GINGERBREAD CHURCH: Bryce Willman, a sixth-grader at St. Michael Catholic School, attaches graham crackers to a box to create his towering gingerbread cathedral, complete with melted Lifesaver stained-glass windows. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

GINGERBREAD CHURCH: Bryce Willman, a sixth-grader at St. Michael Catholic School, attaches graham crackers to a box to create his towering gingerbread cathedral, complete with melted Lifesaver stained-glass windows. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

MECOSTA COUNTY — In keeping with the official theme of Catholic Schools Week, local schools in the Grand Rapids Diocese are focusing on serving their communities.

“Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” is the theme, which area principals point out students live each and every day.

“I think the week gives us another chance for outreach with the parish community,” said Jerry Ward, principal of St. Michael Catholic School in Remus. “We make our events available because we want people to come in and see how we operate. We want to connect with the parish in general.”

Ward noted the school’s motto is “Walking with God, love, grow and serve.”

MANY HANDS: St. Michael fifth-grader Jordan Hansen works with his great-aunt, Jolynn Shoe, to attach a licorice cross to the front of his gingerbread church. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

MANY HANDS: St. Michael fifth-grader Jordan Hansen works with his great-aunt, Jolynn Shoe, to attach a licorice cross to the front of his gingerbread church. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

“One of the things we do really well around here is focus on serving on top of our academic regulations and faith formation,” Ward said. “We make it a point to serve and help others.”

Recently, the school raised nearly $1,100 for Wertz Warriors, a charitable group which completes a snowmobile ride each year to raise funds for Special Olympics.

The concentration on service also is predominant at St. Mary Catholic School in Big Rapids, noted Principal J.B. Watters.

“We focus on service, and have a lot of service projects during Catholic Schools Week,” Watters said. “We’re doing a collection for Angels of Action and for the Leukemia Foundation.

BLUE AND GOLD: Evan Judge, a sixth-grader at St. Michael Catholic School, decorates his University of Michigan-themed gingerbread house during the Catholic Schools Week activity on Tuesday. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

BLUE AND GOLD: Evan Judge, a sixth-grader at St. Michael Catholic School, decorates his University of Michigan-themed gingerbread house during the Catholic Schools Week activity on Tuesday. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

“We’ve got a focus on faith, obviously. We focus on academic excellence and we focus on service. Those three things tie into what we do every day, but during Catholic Schools Week, it’s an opportunity to pull together with all the Catholic schools in the entire country and know everybody is doing the same thing. We’re all on the same page, at least for that week.”

For students, Catholic Schools Week is more of a celebration, though the connection with others isn’t lost.

“The week is to celebrate we’re in a Catholic community with other schools,” said St. Michael fifth-grader Marcus Barnes.

Special days highlighted the week in both schools. For St. Michael students, Monday was a knockerball tournament, Tuesday was building gingerbread churches, Wednesday features a storyteller and pajama day, Thursday will be the school talent show and Friday is the spelling bee.

TEAMWORK: As part of Catholic Schools Week, students at St. Michael Catholic School made gingerbread churches. Sixth-grader Blake Donley and his grandmother, Amy Fewless, aimed to recreate St. Michael's, including the stained-glass windows. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

TEAMWORK: As part of Catholic Schools Week, students at St. Michael Catholic School made gingerbread churches. Sixth-grader Blake Donley and his grandmother, Amy Fewless, aimed to recreate St. Michael’s, including the stained-glass windows. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

At St. Mary, Monday was class shirt day, Tuesday was movie day, Wednesday is Patriot Day, with an assembly to honor military members, veterans, police and firefighters; Thursday will be college day and Friday is a peanut butter and jelly drive and rollerskating.

St. Michael sixth-grader Bryce Willman sees the week-long observance as a sort of school project that allows everyone to participate.

“No one is left out,” he said. “Of the activities, I probably like making gingerbread houses best because it’s fun seeing what my classmates do.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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