BY JOE MARVILLI
Even though National Catholic Schools Week is a nationwide event, it is meant to be a commemoration of the individual parishes and communities that impact the lives of students every day.
According to some faculty members who work at Catholic schools in Queens, the week-long celebration allows students, teachers, parents, staff and community members to come together in a celebration of the day-to-day achievements of religious education. Running from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1 this year, Catholic Schools Week is not just a week of fun but a week of thankfulness for the experiences everyone in the parish can share.
“I think Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to celebrate the fact that we as a parish have such a vibrant and committed Catholic school,” Forest Hills’ Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School principal Anne Zuschlag said.
As the annual festivities in support of Catholic schools, the week-long event is a time for Masses, open houses and reflections on what makes a Catholic education special. Many of students are asked during the week to think about the sacrifices made by their parents, their teachers and the support staff each and every day.
“One of the things we talk to the students about regularly is sacrifice. It’s not easy for all the parents to send their children to Catholic school,” Zuschlag said.
According to the National Catholic Educational Association, the 2014 theme for Catholic Schools Week is “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
“Faith, knowledge and service are three measures by which any Catholic school can and should be judged,” the association said.
Given the emphasis on community and service, the National Catholic Educational Association is asking institutions to mark Catholic Schools Week by pledging 40 hours of service to their neighborhoods. Service plays a key role in the Catholic faith, as Ephesians 5:21 asks people to “be subject to one another in the reverence of Christ.”
“It’s a celebration of who we are and what we do every day. Faith and knowledge are a daily occurrence here,” Barbara DeMaio, principal of Most Precious Blood School in Astoria, said. “As far as service goes, we have service projects that are available on a daily basis. We honor random acts of kindness constantly.”
Zuschlag said that Our Lady Queen of Martyrs will put forward this focus on service by honoring those in the community who work in public service, such as crossing guards, the maintenance staff, civil servants, sanitation workers and more.
“We will be celebrating people in our community who are of service to us,” she said. “[Students] also need to recognize the service in others.”
This year’s Catholic Schools Week is also notable because it is the 40th year that the celebration has been held.
According to Zuschlag, Catholic schools were not as prominent in the City’s past as they are today. The 40th anniversary is chance for students and faculty to remember the struggle Catholics had to gain a foothold in a Protestant-heavy City as well as to fight to make sure today’s schools remain open.
“Those sacrifices those immigrants made years and years ago to start Catholic schools in New York City are really remarkable,” she said. “They offer an opportunity for choice in a country that’s based on choice. As more and more of these schools close, we start to lose that choice.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.