In a crowded school gym during Catholic Schools Week, the bishop of Brooklyn and Queens admitted to the students from Sacred Heart Catholic Academy that he wanted to be a sanitation man when he was five years old.
“I used to go around the block and follow them,” he told the Bayside students.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio joined the diocesan schools office staff at two local celebrations of Catholic Schools Week. Auxiliary bishops also spent the week, Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, visiting academies and schools.
An annual event that dates back to 1974, Catholic Schools Week is a time when Catholic schools across the country hold a variety of community-building activities that range from Masses, open houses and musical and talent showcases to “buddy days” where upper grades mentor younger students in their schools.
Engaged and Growing
“I think what we saw today gives us an opportunity to see the well-rounded Catholic education within the diocese,” explained diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko.
“Emotionally, we engage them; socially, we engage them; intellectually, we engage them and we challenge their talents. We give them an opportunity to really grow and develop. Every child has a talent that we want to manifest.”
This year’s theme was “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” And nearly 1.8 million students receiving a faith-based education in more than 6,000 Catholic schools in the U.S. spent the week alongside their teachers and fellow students celebrating the special role their education plays in their lives.
“I like that we get to go to church a lot and we met the bishop so that was nice,” said Allie Devine. The eighth grader from Sacred Heart was one of the students who welcomed Bishop DiMarzio to her school’s new STREAM Lab located in the junior-high wing.
According to the newly appointed Principal Alexandra Conlan, the unique laboratory will aim to foster the subjects of science, technology, religion, engineering, art and mathematics for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. It was made possible through an $85,000 grant from the diocesan St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust.
Principal Conlan, along with students in lab coats and the diocesan school staff watched as Bishop DiMarzio cut the opening ribbon and blessed the new laboratory.
The bishop walked around the classroom, blessing desks – and even a model skeleton – with holy water. Students ages 4 to 14 will be able to engage in lessons that will challenge their thinking skills when it comes to the environment and earth sciences. Principal Conlan said the religion and art portion would come in handy for cross-subject collaborations.
“The religion piece would be community piece that they work in groups and learn how to work together as a team within their strengths and weaknesses,” she said, “and art – how to express themselves creatively.”
Great Talent, Learning
After spending time in Bayside, the bishop and schools staff also visited St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy in Flushing, where he was welcomed with a musical ensemble of sorts. In front of the stage curtains in the lower church, students sang, played instruments and even recited poetry about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The entertainment was capped off by eighth grader Gitae Park’s lively performance of “Scherzo No. 3” by Polish composer Frederic Chopin.
Eighth-grader Jack Hanophy, who plans to pursue art in high school, drew a picture of the bishop and proudly presented it to him.
“As you see, the Catholic schools are second to none. There’s great talent, great learning and great care for the students,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “It’s important because unless we nurture faith, we will find no faith in the future.”
Another graduating eighth grader who shared her singing talents for the bishop with her classmates was Olivia Zurita. She said it was bittersweet since she knew this would be the last Catholic Schools Week celebration in which she would be participating with the school she “loves so much.”
In the fall, she will attend either Dominican Academy, Manhattan, or Frank Sinatra School of Arts, Astoria. The aspiring musician said the education she received at St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy since she was four years old shaped her life in a way that also nurtured her faith.
“I think that it really helped me, especially in faith, because there were so many times in life where I doubted myself, I doubted people around me, but then my family here is like my second home,” said Zurita. “I wake up every day and I’m so excited to come to school.”