WINDSOR TERRACE — Even though the pandemic changed how this year’s Catholic Schools Week could be celebrated, the spirit was still alive and well across schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Dating back nearly 50 years, the annual week-long event highlights Catholic schools nationwide as they hold various community-building activities — like Masses, assemblies, and musical performances — in order to promote the value of an education that revolves around the Catholic faith, knowledge, and service.
From Feb. 8 to 11, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Auxiliary Bishop Paul R. Sanchez, and Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, separately and virtually, visited classes at Bay Ridge Catholic Academy, Notre Dame Catholic Academy, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy of Queens, St. Kevin Catholic Academy, Sacred Heart Catholic Academy-Cambria Heights, and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Academy, Brooklyn.
When speaking to students at St. Stanislaus Kostka, Bishop DiMarzio urged them to thank not only their parents for making sacrifices for them to attend a Catholic school but their teachers, as well, for guiding them during the pandemic. The Diocese of Brooklyn currently employs about 2,000 teachers, according to the bishop.
“In July, we asked all the teachers if they were willing to go back to school,” Bishop DiMarzio explained. “Ninety percent said that they were ready and willing to go back to school — that’s why we began live school as quickly as we could. And we’re so happy that our teachers are so dedicated to you, the students, that they did that — and to our administrators also.”
Thirteen fifth-graders from St. Stanislaus Kostka played a Catholic Schools Week game better known as “Stump the Bishop,” in which they could ask Bishop DiMarzio any question — even non-religious ones. The students prepared questions about his responsibilities as bishop, if miracles still occur, how many confirmations he has presided over, and what his favorite time of year is on the liturgical calendar, to which he responded Lent followed by Easter.
Bishop Chappetto also answered questions from 18 students in Notre Dame’s seventh-grade class. They asked him about his time as a pastor and bishop and questions pertaining to the pandemic, how teenagers can get closer to God, and how he spreads the Word of God outside the church. Bishop Chappetto noted that preaching is not only done through words, but through actions as well.
“I think that’s what we’re called to do. We all try to do that as followers of Jesus,” he explained, saying that small, simple gestures of kindness help others know that they are loved.
To conclude their visit, the seventh-graders thanked Bishop Chappetto for his generous time and announced they would dedicate a weeks-worth of Hail Mary’s in his honor, continuing to pray for him and the important work he does in the community.
“This was a great learning experience for the children,” remarked Jennifer DiLorenzo, principal of Notre Dame Catholic Academy. “It was a pleasure having Bishop Chappetto, and I look forward to having him come again post-pandemic.”
At Sacred Heart, nursery and pre-K students sang “Jesus Is My Best Friend” and “I Am So Happy” to Bishop Sanchez. The first-grade class sang and signed “Jesus Love Me” after expressing what they each loved most about their school. The fourth grade paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and later sang “We Shall Overcome.” Finally, the seventh-grade class presented their “God Bless America” essays to the bishop.
After hearing the students deliver their presentations, Bishop Sanchez reiterated the importance of their messages that called for love, equality, and unity.
“One of the phrases I like that describes the virtue of love is something that one of the saints gave us — ‘To love is to will the good of the other,’ ” Bishop Sanchez said, referring to St. Thomas Aquinas. “The three great virtues that we proclaim as Catholics and Christians are faith, hope, and love. The Scripture says that the greatest of these is love.”
When one seventh-grader spoke of being a part of today’s solution, not a problem, Bishop Sanchez commented on how beautiful that sentiment was.
“Because of your youth, your education, the wisdom that you have picked up from Sacred Heart Academy, your families and parents, and because you have faith in God, you can bring all of that to the world, and you can make a great contribution,” he said. “I pray that you are able to do that, have the strength to do that, and that good people continue to surround you and give you a hand when you need it.
“Together, we pray that the vision of Jesus — the vision of our faith — can continue to grow in this world.”