By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
BURLINGTON — Each year, National Catholic Schools Week and Burlington Notre Dame Schools’ homecoming fall at the same time near the end of January, posing a challenge for faculty and students. “We always feel like we don’t give the emphasis we need to for Catholic Schools Week.” said religion teacher Nita Carlson.
Officials at the school wanted to find a way to celebrate both traditions fully, so they came up with a new tradition — one that would allow students to celebrate faith in education not just for one week, but throughout the year.
In September, the students began participating in a monthly “Catholic Schools Day,” in which high school and middle school students take about 30 minutes each month during school hours to mentor and help younger students. First-year principal Bill Maupin, who developed the initiative with Carlson, said the plan, while not a traditional celebration of National Catholic Schools Week, benefits students by serving as a constant reminder of how they can live out their Catholic values in the school.
“It shouldn’t be just a one-week thing,” said Maupin. “It should be throughout the year in their overall lives. We wanted to spread (Catholic Schools Day) throughout the year and make that a habit for the kids as a way of thinking and not just a little celebration that occurs once a year.”
Carlson added, “It is one thing to be observant for a week, but we need to be fulfilling Catholic values all year long.”
Maupin and Carlson decided to celebrate their “Catholic Schools Day” on the 13th of each month. The “1” in 13 represents “one God” and the “3” in 13 represents three persons. The idea is to remind students of the core Catholic belief that there is one God in three persons.
On Sept. 13, older students went to elementary classrooms during the school day, helping the younger students with activities including making cards for home-bound individuals, making math flashcards, and helping with reading activities. In October, students will pray the rosary together in honor of Holy Rosary Month.
Although the students have only celebrated one “Catholic Schools Day” so far, Carlson said she is already observing changes in students. She has noticed the younger students and older students interacting more than usual outside the parameters of the program. “Finding them interacting in the hall, or at a game, and forming a relationship outside of the classroom – it is important at a small school like we have.”
For Maupin, Catholic Schools Day already is meeting a long-term goal: encouraging students to exemplify faith values such as fellowship, family and service outside the program’s parameters. As the program becomes more established, Maupin and Carlson hope that students can start working together outside of the school building to do service projects in the community. “There is a lot of potential to grow this,” he said.