January 29, 2012, marks the beginning of the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week. The occasion affords the opportunity to pay tribute to the value of Catholic education in parishes and the communities in which they reside.
The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2012 is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Academics. Service.” In a letter to Catholic school administrators, staff and parents, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge wrote, “The theme succinctly expresses three priorities that reflect the strong Catholic identity of our schools and the excellence in education and faith formation for which they are known. In addition, our schools prepare our students for service to Church and community.”
In Catholic schools, children are taught faith – not just the basics of Christianity, but how to have a relationship with God. Academics, which in Catholic schools are held to very high standards, help each child reach his or her potential. Service, the giving of one’s time and effort to help others, is taught both as an expression of faith and good citizenship.
The Diocese of Raleigh currently has 22 elementary/middle schools, two high schools and eight early childhood centers, with a total enrollment of approximately 9,000 students. The Diocesan schools are accredited by AdvancED (S.A.C.S). Early childhood centers undergo a local validation process.
The more than 800 professional educators that staff the schools and centers are licensed through the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. Standardized tests include the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and Cognitive Ability Test along with the PSAT and SAT in high schools, which also offer advance placement courses.
Five schools have recently been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. They are Blessed Sacrament School in Burlington, which received the honor on two occasions; St. Michael the Archangel School in Cary; Our Lady of Lourdes School in Raleigh, and Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Raleigh. The Franciscan School in Raleigh received the award in the current school year. (See story.)
“As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week,” Diocesan Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Fedewa said, “I wish to thank all of the dedicated pastors, principals, faculties, and staff that provide such outstanding service to our young people. They do so with great care and professionalism," Dr. Fedewa added. “I am also grateful to the parents with whom we partner in their role as first teachers of their children. Their support and sacrifice is critical to the success of your schools and early childhood centers.”
The annual Catholic Schools Week observance, which runs through February 5, is typically celebrated with Masses, open houses and activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.
Bishop Burbidge will preside at a prayer service Monday, January 30, at St. Mark School in Wilmington; celebrate Mass at St. Francis Church in Raleigh on January 31, recognizing the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon Award; celebrate Mass at Cardinal Gibbons High School in February 2, followed by a groundbreaking for expansion at the school; and the celebration of Mass on February 3 at St Patrick School in Fayetteville. Attending the Mass at St. Patrick School will be eighth graders from St. Ann School in Fayetteville and Pope John Paul II School in Southern Pines.