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Catholic School Advantage

Traditions Enrich Faith, Family, and Schools

on Thursday, 12 January 2012.

JuanaGuadalupeUpdate3
Since Catholic School Advantage school partners were introduced in Chicago in June 2011, I have worked with an increasing number of schools that have expressed interest in reaching out to the growing Latino communities around them. Within this outreach is the opportunity to enrich their faith life and cultural life by growing their annual school traditions. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated on December 12, inspired a number of schools to do just that. Below are just a few examples of schools that have embraced new cultural traditions and integrated these along with other long-standing celebrations, inclusive of all.

Juana María Sánchez
Consultant, Catholic School Advantage – Chicago


JuanaGuadalupeUpdate1St. Colette (Rolling Meadows, IL)

St. Colette recited the novena for the nine days leading up to December 12. Each class took a turn leading the rosary. Between decades of the rosary, Mr. Trejo, one of the dads from the Hispanic choir, led the class in song. They sang "Las Apariciones Gudalupanas". On the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe the school processed into the church with candles and roses made out of crepe paper. Then, the Spanish class from St.Viator High School acted out the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego. The rosary was recited, and Mexican hot chocolate and sweet dessert bread were provided by the parish's Hispanic Ministry.

St. Kieran (Chicago Heights, IL)JuanaGuadalupeUpdate2
St. Kieran School celebrated the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe and mission of Juan Diego with a presentation at Mass depicting the events of Our Lady's visit to Mexico. Students wore peasant costumes, presented roses at the shrine and paid homage to the likeness of the Lady on Juan Diego's sarape. After the procession out of church by the characters, the student body followed Juan Diego to the gym for a reception of authentic Mexican hot chocolate and sweet baked bread. This celebration was a collaborative effort among the art teacher, religious education coordinator, school students, and the Parent Teacher Network. Great things happen when great people work together. Further, during this holiday season St. Kieran School has formed a partnership with St. Paul's Catholic Church in Chicago Heights to bring joy and comfort to the neediest of parishioners. Through the efforts of the school children and their parents, as well as the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Women's Club, and parishioners of St. Kieran Church, a collection of warm clothes (hats, coats, gloves & scarves), food, and toys for children were donated to St. Paul's pastor, Fr. Rene. He came to St. Kieran for the first truckload of items. Another delivery was made on December 19th. The children in the school even created their own Giving Tree to help in the collection. The true spirit of Christmas lives in hearts of children who embrace the honor to serve others less fortunate.

Academy of Our Lady (Waukegan, IL)
The Rosary Club of Academy of Our Lady School in Waukegan led a Rosary for The Blessed Trinity Church on Wednesday, December 7th. It was a special evening for the 30 children of the Rosary Club. They attended a Spanish Mass with fellow parishioners and then led everyone in the Glorious Mysteries. The children prepared bilingual prayer pamphlets, which they gave to all the families present. Sharing their faith is an important part of their ministry. It was a special evening for the students as they joined the parish in celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Agnes of Bohemia (Chicago, IL)

St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic School is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade parish school located in Little Village, on the southwest side of Chicago. The school serves low-income and immigrant families, with Mexican and Mexican-American students comprising over 90% of the student body. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a very special feast for the St. Agnes of Bohemia School and Church. "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" has a central place in the hearts of the Latino community because she appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City. Our Lady shared her love and invited the Mexican people to follow God. She is also an important symbol for the immigrant community because she was an immigrant who did what was best for her family. At St. Agnes of Bohemia School, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in several different ways. On Friday, December 9th, we honored Our Lady, along with the grandparents and other senior citizens in our community. The entire school celebrated Mass with the guests of honor. The eighth grade students shared the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady through a skit before the homily. All of the seniors were then invited to a brunch in the school lunchroom. The guests were welcomed into a cheerfully decorated room to share a meal and time with their friends and neighbors. Some of the school staff members and parents cooked the food, and the eighth grade students served the guests. The eighth grade students truly enjoyed serving and spending time with the seniors. Following the brunch, the guests were invited into the school gym for a Christmas Program. The students sang songs with their grade and as a whole school, telling the story of the Nativity. A small group of students created a living Nativity scene to add a visual image to the meaning of the songs. The program ended with the entire school singing "Feliz Navidad" to wish our guests a merry Christmas. The Mass, brunch, and Christmas show to honor seniors in the community and Mary have been a tradition at St. Agnes of Bohemia for over twenty years.

Father Joe Goes to Mexico

on Thursday, 05 January 2012.

MexicoMY FOURTH TRIP TO TEQUEPEXPAN, NAYARIT, MEXICO

December 21: My fourth trip to Tequepexpan began with three flights --- South Bend to Atlanta, Atlanta to Monterrey and Monterrey to Guadalajara. There was a layover in Monterrey. My good friend, Fr. John Herman, CSC, came to the airport and we were able to visit for about 40 minutes. It was great to see him and to hear how things are going in the parish where he is the Pastor. The plane arrived in Guadalajara at 5:00 p.m. A student from Dillon Hall, Ignacio Aranguren, who lives in Guadalajara, picked me up. Since he knew that I was coming to Guadalajara, he had called me and asked me to bring a pair of shoes that he forgot in the study lounge in Dillon before leaving. I love how comfortable Notre Dame students feel with us Holy Cross priests. He brought me to the hotel. There is a Church across the street from the hotel. And like all Churches in Mexico there are always evening Masses at 7 pm and 8 pm. I went to Mass and then I spent a couple hours walking around Guadalajara, a city that I have grown to love very much. I ate totally great mole poblano at a restaurant one block from the hotel. It was a beautiful night --- sounds, color, people, activity everywhere and it was about 75 degrees.

December 22: After morning Mass, I went for a run in Guadalajara. It really is a beautiful city. Mexico decorates so much for Christmas. At 1:00 p.m., Ignacio picked me up at the hotel and brought me to the bus terminal in Guadalajara to get the bus to Tepic. I arrived in Tepic around 5:00 p.m. Tepic is a city of about 360,000 people. After checking into the hotel, I went to the Cathedral. Bishop Ricardo Watty, M.Sp.S., the Bishop who first invited me to come to his diocese and to work in Tequepexpan, died on November 1. I wanted very much to visit his tomb. He is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. So I spoke with the Rector/Pastor who took me down to his tomb. I prayed there for his eternal rest and in gratitude for his life. I did not know him well, but it did not take long to know that he was a wonderful man and religious and Bishop. I thoroughly enjoyed my three visits with him on my other trips. After praying at his tomb, I went to greet the Sister who was his housekeeper. And then, as I love to do, I simply walked around the city. The hotel is right on the main plaza of Tepic. There was Christmas music and groups and entertainment until long after I fell asleep.

December 23: I got up early at 6:30 a.m. and went to the Cathedral for the 7:00 a.m. Mass. The Rector/Pastor asked me to take the Mass so that he could hear confessions. I was happy to celebrate Mass. There were about 100 people. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to God to be a priest. 

Latino Students and a Prize-Winning Principal Share Messages of Hospitality and Hope

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 12 December 2011.

Yvonne Schwab, who recently was named among this year's 61 National Distinguished Principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), says many people and many forces have come together to transform Saint James the Less School, the Catholic school she leads in Columbus, Ohio.

Progressing toward the October 2011 NAESP ceremony and an earlier competition in which the National Catholic Education Association honored her as a Distinguished Principal, Yvonne wrote various essays describing accomplishments at St. James the Less. One of those accomplishments has been a surge in Latino enrollment during the eight years of her leadership—from two students to 260 out of a current student population totaling 497.

Catholic School Advantage: A Letter from San Antonio

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 09 December 2011.

By Field Consultant Paul Rodriguez

Paul Rodriguez is ACE's Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He sends this update on a success story he learned about while working with the people of St. Gerard High School in San Antonio.

Situated on the east side of San Antonio, Texas, there is a Catholic high school that has served the city’s youth since 1927. It is a school that is rich in history and tradition and has produced some of the city’s most prominent leaders.

St. Gerard High School has been a partner of the Catholic School Advantage campaign for almost an entire year, and as the field consultant representing this campaign in San Antonio, it has been an amazing experience to witness the continued growth and rejuvenation of one of San Antonio’s true gems.

The recent success of the school does not necessarily result from a booming enrollment or state-of-the-art facilities. Rather, the true success of this school emerges from a student body that is motivated and committed to their faith and academics. In addition, the school truly embodies a sense of social justice and service to the community.  In fact, St. Gerard’s has recently developed a satellite campus at St. Peter-St. Joseph Children’s Home (St. PJ’s). Through the partnership, SGH extends the Catholic School advantage to abused, neglected, and abandoned children. 

Most notably, the inspiration and revived spirit of this school are a primary result of the energy and enthusiasm for Catholic education found in their principal, Mr. Peter Rivera. When speaking of the school, he stated, “St. Gerard High School is serving a great need for the urban area of San Antonio in the Catholic Tradition. Our goal is to impart a love of learning in our student body.”

            As a second-year principal of St. Gerard High School, Rivera has revived the appearance of the school on the inside and out. Every time I visit the school, I am amazed by the courtesy of the students, staff, and faculty. Respect and a willingness to succeed as a collective school community permeate the hallways and the inside of classrooms.

            Complementing the discipline and the focused curriculum are the spiritual presence of the Ursuline, Franciscan, and School Sisters of Notre Dame, the vigor of a football coach who shows the utmost care for his players, the grace of an office manager who never ceases to smile and welcome visitors, and the environment of an art room able to inspire even the most gifted and talented artists—and of course the passion of a school principal who arrives early and stays late.

            Sr. Elizabeth Hatzenbuehler, technology teacher and Ursuline Sister, stated, “Our work is about helping students work towards peace and reconciliation.  With the challenges our students face, I try to help them understand on a daily basis that they are unique and that God loves them.”

            Mr. Rivera has executed multiple outreach initiatives to increase the community’s knowledge of the great things that St. Gerard has to offer. During one particular week, I witnessed groups of eighth graders from multiple schools touring the campus, being led by St. Gerard student ambassadors. In the view of Mr. Rivera, students must be able to connect with other students to directly experience the spectrum of school culture. One student, senior Maria Fernandez spoke of the school’s greatness. She stated, “What I’ve learned most is the ability to communicate with all people and confront the world.  St. Gerard’s has taught me about morals and the difference between right and wrong. I could not have learned these life lessons without the guidance of our Sisters.”

            There is no doubt that students who graduate from this institution are equipped to do more than just excel in their next academic endeavor. They are prepared for life as confident individuals filled with faith and joy. Mr. Rivera and the entire school community are committed to the continuing improvement of the institution and the extension of the Catholic School Advantage to more youth in San Antonio.

            Significant increases in enrollment are not an overnight phenomenon, but through excellent leadership and an enthusiastic school community, there is no doubt that St. Gerard’s High School will prosper in faith and hope for many years to come.

Accompanying photo: Maria Fernandez, a senior at St. Gerard's, created this mural for a Mass with the Archbishop.

Catholic School Advantage - A Letter from New York

on Friday, 09 December 2011.

by Field Consultant Rudy Vargas

Rudy Vargas is ACE’s Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of New York. He sends this update on a success story he has seen while working with the people of various elementary and secondary schools in the Bronx and elsewhere in the New York City area.

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.”
– Scottish Clergyman Peter Marshall (1902-1949)

I have been visiting with madrinas in these past few months in my work with the Catholic School Advantage campaign in New York. The madrinas groups have been initiated since June 2011 as one of our major strategies to increase Latino enrollment and retention. These visits with madrinas have been a blessing.

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