Catholic Schools Week: A Celebration of Catholic Education

If you ask 10-year-old Peter Kenney what his favorite week is during Stella Maris Academy’s school year, he will reply instantaneously, “Catholic Schools Week.” In fact, if you ask any Catholic school student this question, you can almost always expect that answer.

Catholic Schools Week is an annual celebration of Catholic education commemorated with Masses, fundraisers and activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. Stella Maris Academy, the only Catholic school in Duluth, joined schools across the nation from Jan. 27-Feb. 3 in celebrating CSW.

The theme for this year’s CSW was “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” Staff and faculty planned an abundance of activities at SMA’s three campuses to support the theme, focusing especially on community and acts of service.

“Heading into the second year as Stella Maris Academy, we know the importance of fostering a strong sense of community, as one Catholic school, Stella Maris Academy,” said SMA President Hilaire Hauer. “Our mission statement speaks to the importance of community - a true mark of our Catholic identity, who we are as a people and our role to support the formation and education of our students and families.  We lead, love and serve as Jesus taught, knowing that serving our community is our way to live out the Great Commission, to bring light to the world and to share our blessings with others.”

Community and Service

On Monday, January 28, students kicked off a week of service. Each student was given a slip of paper to record how he or she helped someone throughout the week. All sheets were added to a “Wall of Service” and by the end of the week, the designated walls at all three campuses were filled with achievements including “Read to my sister”, “Hauled wood for my grandpa”, and “Shoveled the driveway”.

“The Wall of Service was an excellent way for the students of Stella Maris Academy to carry out the mission to lead, love and serve,” said Peggy Fredrickson, the principal of Holy Rosary campus. “Throughout the week, the students spent over 5,000 minutes doing service to others. They enjoyed helping their friends and family and we are all very proud of their accomplishments.”

Along with their service at home, students performed acts of service in the classroom including decorating Valentines for residents at the Pines and Woodland Garden, sending Valentines to police officers, and making tie blankets for veterans.

Fourth grader David Kenney was happy that his class sent Valentines to the residents of an assisted living home.

“They probably don’t receive a lot of Valentines and it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s a holiday of love,” he said. “I hope they were really happy and it made their day.”

As happy as David was to perform an act of service, the Duluth Police Department was equally appreciative to receive one. After two SMA students delivered Valentines to the Police Department, Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken posted on his Facebook page, “On behalf of DPD, our hearts are filled with your love and support! Happy Valentine’s Day Stella Maris Academy MN!” 

As well as engaging the community through service work, Stella Maris hosted several events that invited community members to celebrate with SMA. Everyone was welcome to several Masses, meals, and an All-Campus Open House. Director of Admissions Sarah Pennings said that the Stella Maris community is always looking for opportunities to invite people in to see its campuses and experience Catholic education, and CSW provides a great opportunity to do just that.

While this year’s Catholic Schools Week undoubtedly experienced great success, it did not come without struggle.

Overcoming Challenges

After a wonderful kick-off to CSW, Duluth experienced freezing temperatures and snow for three consecutive days.  All events scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had to be cancelled. Despite the disappointment, students, families, community members and staff rose to the challenge of making CSW a success despite the circumstances.

Faculty and staff at all three campuses worked tirelessly to reschedule events, while families and community members rearranged their schedules to support Stella Maris. A talent show, teacher appreciation meals, Masses, classroom visits, and acts of service were successfully rescheduled. A spaghetti dinner that had to be postponed a week still brought in over 150 supporters and raised $1,000.

President Hauer expressed gratitude and praise for the success of Catholic Schools Week.

 “I am so appreciative of how flexible and agile our families, staff members and supporters were in the ongoing rescheduling of events, daily scheduling and simply just sticking with it joyfully during the mild chaos,” Hauer said. “Our three campuses created wonderful learning experiences, fun celebrations and multiple activities that showed how important our faith is in our education.”

Katelyn KasellaComment