January 29 through February 5, 2012, in the Diocese of Raleigh and in the nation, is Catholic Schools Week. This year’s theme, “Faith, Academics, Service,” emphasizes the cornerstones of Catholic education, from early childhood through secondary school, and is being highlighted in all the Diocese’s 22 elementary/middle schools, two high schools and eight early childhood centers. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge is marking the week with pastoral visits to schools in various parts of the Diocese.
On Monday, the Bishop visited St. Mark Catholic School in Wilmington, NC, where he blessed construction underway to expand the 400-student school. The expansion will add six new classrooms, a gym and a stage to the school, and will be ready for the 2012-2013 academic year.
St. Mark Principal Mrs. Margaret DiFulvio says that the expanded school will be able to accommodate 500 students. Following the blessing and prayer service, Bishop Burbidge spoke to four groups of students in St. Mark Church, teaching the meaning of the three words in the Catholic Schools Week theme.
View photo gallery of St. Mark School visit
Tuesday morning found the Bishop at The Franciscan School (TFS) of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh. He celebrated Mass for the teachers and students of TFS, which was recognized this year by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.
The Blue Ribbon Schools Program, sponsored by the Department of Education’s Office for Non-public Education, honors high performing public and private elementary, middle, and high schools.
A school may be recognized if its students achieve at the highest levels, that is, if the school is in the top 10 percent of the schools in the nation in reading and mathematics in the last grade tested, as measured by an assessment referenced against national norms, or in the top 10 percent in its state as measured by a state test in at least the last grade tested.
At the end of Mass, TFS Principal Mrs. Jennifer Bigelow presented Bishop Burbidge with the plaque signifying the award.
Following Mass, the Bishop and Father Mark Reamer, OFM, Pastor of St. Francis, processed to St. Mary of the Angels Chapel on the parish grounds. The Bishop blessed newly installed mosaic portraits of St. Francis and St. Clare by the chapel doorway, then went inside the chapel with TFS middle school students for the presentation of a second award.
Mr. Bill Laxton, a St. Francis parishioner and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, presented the Bishop and Father Reamer with a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Award for the green construction of the parish’s Siena Center for Lifelong Learning, which houses the middle school during the daytime. St. Francis now owns four LEED awards, which Mr. Laxton said might be the most of any school in the country.
After the award presentation, the Bishop spoke to the assembled students, telling them to appreciate the special environment they have enjoyed as members of a Catholic school of excellence and to take with them in their future schooling and lives the values they have learned and practiced at TFS. Later in the morning, the Bishop visited with all of the TFS students.
View gallery of The Franciscan School visit
During this week the Bishop will continue his pastoral visits to schools:
- On Thursday, he will celebrate Mass and attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh.
- On Friday, the Bishop will offer Mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Fayetteville for students of St. Patrick Catholic School as well as eighth grade students from St. Ann Catholic School in Fayetteville and Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Southern Pines. At noon he will visit all the students at St. Ann.
Above: Students at St. Mark Catholic School in Wilmington attending prayer service for construction project underway for expansion of the 400-student school. (Click photo to view larger.)
Below: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Father Mark Reamer, OFM, with two students at The Franciscan School in Raleigh holding the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award. (Click photo to view larger.)