Here's to you, Catholic Schools!
This week, we honor Catholic education in the United States. National Catholic Schools Week was created for this specific purpose, and is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Simply put, the purpose of the event is to raise public awareness about Catholic education. It starts the last Sunday in January. For 2014, this means National Catholic Schools Week occurs from January 26 to February 1, and we are in the middle of it. The Archdiocese of Chicago is strongly supporting this effort, which is a joint project between the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
But is there really much to celebrate, when so many Catholic schools are closing around the country? There is in Chicago. In fact, one of the huge announcements for this years Catholic Schools Week was a surprise announcement that two of the six schools that the Archdiocese had designated for closure will actually be returning for another school year. Those two schools are St. Christopher Catholic School in Midlothian and Our Lady of Victory Catholic Schools on Chicago’s North Side. They learned last Friday afternoon that they could proceed with open houses and other activities during Catholic Schools Week. They had originally been slated to close with the four other schools because of declining enrollment, but the Archdiocese of Chicago granted a reprieve once Catholic families and teachers at those schools vowed to keep the schools open and embarked on a “Save our school” fund-raising drive.
For other Catholic schools around the Chicago area, there is also much to celebrate. Elementary school enrollment is on the rise within Chicago city limits, and there is a new strategic plan and the launch of a $350 million campaign for Catholic education across the U.S. In the Archdiocese of Chicago alone, over 84,000 students attend Catholic schools, and they have been showcasing their achievements at 244 elementary and high schools in Cook and Lake counties. These schools are staffed by over 6,000 caring and committed educators. This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Catholic Schools Week, originally established in 1974 to recognize Catholic education in the United States
Catholic schools typically observe National Catholic Schools Week with various activities including Masses, open houses, and outreach activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. This helps to focus attention on the quality of a Catholic education, and the fact that the schools are open to every family seeking a solid education, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
So if you've never set foot inside a Catholic school before, an ideal time to do so would be now during National Catholic Schools Week. Catholic education has come a long way in the United States since St. Elizabeth Ann Seton helped to establish the first Catholic education system in America during the colonial era. Come celebrate with us!