Jesus remains the guiding light for Catholic Schools as they continue to navigate through the pandemic


PORTSMOUTH — The annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States — Catholic Schools Week (CSW) will take place from January 30 to February 5, 2022, with schools locally and throughout the country observing the tradition with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value that Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the Church and communities.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools to approach their usual Catholic Schools Week celebrations with a measure of caution, some activities showcasing the spirit of Catholic schools will still take place.
The various activities and events planned at St. Philomena School of the Sacred Heart in Portsmouth, for example, will celebrate the vibrancy of their Catholic school, said Head of School and Principal Brian Cordeiro, M.Ed.
At St. Philomena, there will be ice cream parties, games, generous giving and school spirit at every turn as students and educators reflect on their Catholic Schools Week theme to “Building a Compassionate Community: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.”
Cordeiro told Rhode Island Catholic that each year this week is set aside to remind the entire community that being a Catholic school is not only a special distinction because of their mission within the Church, but also a reminder that we are called to be joyful, fully alive and filled with the Holy Spirit.
“There is no better time than Catholic Schools Week to be inspired by the Gospel to practice compassion, develop our empathy for others and model the love of Jesus,” said Cordeiro, whose favorite CSW day is “Wear Your Prayer” Day where students can design and create t-shirts that showcase their personal prayers and intentions.
“As we move around campus we can literally see what our friends and teachers are carrying in their hearts,” he explained. “Intentions for a sick grandparent, a friend in need, a loved one with God in heaven are showcased so that on this special day we wear our prayer to share our prayer.”
Navigating through the school year has no doubt been challenging this year as Catholic schools throughout Rhode Island and the country find their way through the ongoing pandemic. Catholic Schools Week is a reminder that Christ remains the beacon of light for these communities. Cordeiro shared that this week has more meaning for him personally this year.
“The pandemic has brought Catholic school leaders closer than ever to share plans, burdens and resources. I see close-up how the Catholic identity of our schools is embodied in the tireless efforts of principals and pastors and the heroic dedication of teachers and staff who serve and sacrifice every day to keep children in school and moving forward in faith. We are truly blessed by those who carry on the mission of Catholic education in Rhode Island and it is a privilege to serve alongside all my colleagues.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, and the challenges it continues to present for schools everywhere, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence reported an overall 4.85 percent increase in enrollments for the 2020-2021 academic year.
At All Saints STEAM Academy in Middletown, a diocesan school where the enrollment increased by 37 students this year, Principal Anita Brouse attributes the uptick to “the consistent efforts of our dedicated staff and faculty, whose creativity and commitment to their students has created a culture of inclusion and compassion.”
She said the school’s welcoming attitude and team-centered approach allows the community to be flexible to new ideas and change as they help students achieve their goals.
Despite the period when schools moved temporarily from in-person to remote online instruction, Brouse said the transition was a seamless one as both students and teachers were fluent in using the technology that made remote learning possible.
“It is the consistent quality instruction provided at All Saints, both before the pandemic challenge and especially during this time, that has drawn families to our community,” Brouse said.
Father John V. Doyle School in Coventry saw an increase of 30 new students this year.
“The mission of Father Doyle School is to provide students with a well-rounded education based on Roman Catholic Tradition. This means viewing education as an endeavor to form the whole person — even amidst a global pandemic,” said Principal Kevin Peloquin.
He said that the staff has worked tirelessly throughout the past two years to continue to provide an educational experience that meets not only the academic needs of students, but also their social-emotional needs while developing opportunities for spiritual growth.
“We continue to safely celebrate Mass, offer confession, pray school-wide rosaries and even offer our daily prayer service live on YouTube,” Peloquin said.
The principal noted that many families joined the school community because of its emphasis on in-person learning.
“However, we discovered, that once they enrolled in our school, they stayed because they found a place that felt like home — a community that was welcoming, safe, and prioritized the complete development and overall well-being of their child at a time of significant upheaval and crisis in the world,” Peloquin said.
And it’s this shared educational philosophy that makes all Catholic schools special and worth celebrating.
With reports from Executive Editor Rick Snizek.