Lisa Blaes is the Principal of Sacred Heart Catholic School in Ottawa, Kansas.
Every year at this time we unite with schools across the nation to celebrate Catholic Schools Week! These days are filled with joy, laughter, service, and prayer. Not unlike a lot of our school days, but this week we intentionally stop to celebrate all the blessings God has showered upon us. We will have themed days, praise and worship services, pancakes breakfasts, guest speakers, guest lunches, prayer services, Masses, rosaries, talent shows, and books fairs. We will collect everything from pennies to mittens to canned goods. We will support our local life care and retirement centers.
We set aside time this week to celebrate what makes our Catholic schools distinctive. We celebrate our unique mission to provide an education that is founded on the beautiful and fulfilling values exemplified by Christ’s teaching. We’ve all heard the statistics that tell the story of how successful Catholic schools are including graduation rates, test scores, and the personal success of individual students. But what does that look like every day in a small rural school, with 66 families and 5 full time teachers or in a suburban school with 472 families and 43 full time teachers? It is the pastors, parents and parishioners who support the school not only monetarily but with prayer. It is hard-working teachers who have honed their craft and are blessed by a culture that is designed to enrich their interior lives. It is students who are seen, valued, and treated as individuals created with unique gifts.
It is an army of “angels” who give to the Catholic Education Foundation, which in turn provides tuition assistance to many families. Of course this tuition assistance is important to the families who receive it; but in some cases it means enrollment remains high enough to keep the school open.
It is the encounter of souls, the recognition of souls, and the communication of souls. Most importantly, it is the encounter with Christ Himself.