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
St. 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)
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.