Carol Martin Tracy is the Director of Marketing at sfs architecture and a member of CEF's Board of Directors.
It was only fitting that I be greeted at the door to St. Patrick’s Catholic School for a recent CEF Board of Directors meeting by a smiling red-haired, freckle-faced young student. St. Patrick himself couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador! What awaited me inside was just as delightful.
First a little background…St. Patrick School sits just beyond the shadows of the Kansas Speedway, Schlitterbahn and the Cerner Continuous campus, among other new mega developments in western Wyandotte County. Its campus, though, is not mega and it’s not new. In fact, it’s a little worn and dated; not a lot of bells and whistles, not unlike many of the older Catholic schools in the area. But, what it might lack in modern-day amenities, it makes up in the beauty of God’s love expressed throughout the school, in the abundant joy of the students, faculty and staff who fill the school and in the humble hands of the parish community that labors to support it.
As you walk the halls of St. Patrick you can’t help but be inspired by the large banners proclaiming the mission of the school – Living Faith, Embracing Community, Nurturing Sanctuary and Celebrating Success. Statues of Saints Patrick and Mary, among others, adorn the walls and provide a powerful reminder of the communion of saints which unites us as one. Most powerful, though, is the dynamic, faith-inspired artwork lovingly hand-crafted by the students and proudly displayed throughout the school. This is indeed a beautifully Catholic school.
The joy is evident in the wide smiles of the students, faculty and staff we encountered during our visit. For many students, a large percentage of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch, St. Patrick School provides a sanctuary from the high-risk neighborhoods in which they live. Mrs. Torres, the school principal, smiled brightly as she talked of the students’ accomplishments and the Catholic Fish Philosophy the school is using to nurture the body, mind and souls of the students. Adapted from the popular Fish! management philosophy, students at St. Patrick are encouraged to choose their attitude; be there for others and for God; to make the day special for God and those they value; and, just as importantly, they are encouraged to play – to bring enthusiasm, creativity and faith to school every day. This is indeed a joyfully Catholic school.
The school is a labor of love for the St. Patrick parish. As we toured the school, Mrs. Torres talked of the wonderful parish community that supports the school with time, talent and treasure. For example, the community recently raised funds to create a new science lab for the middle school and to provide new chairs and desks in other classrooms. Small projects with huge impacts. She also talked about a parishioner who volunteered time after school to help care for students until their parents could pick them up, saving them the expense of after-school care. And, finally, she related a story about parishioners joining forces to fund, build and equip a new playground on the campus. This is indeed a loving Catholic community.