Catholic Schools Week celebrations continue despite pandemic realities

Student Council members Mitch Sager, seventh grade, and Reese Welker, eighth grade, hand out decorated cups filled with hot chocolate mix, mini marshmallows and peppermint candies as a token of gratitude to members of St. Mary Parish in Kickapoo as Catholic Schools Week begins. A few of the activities planned by the Diocese of Peoria's 42 Catholic elementary schools, high schools and academies are listed below. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

KICKAPOO — It was all about gratitude as Catholic Schools Week kicked off on Jan. 31 around the Diocese of Peoria. At St. Mary Church here, those warm wishes were accompanied by a decorated cup filled with a packet of hot chocolate mix, mini marshmallows and peppermint candy all wrapped up in cellophane and a bow.

The gifts were prepared and distributed by Student Council members under the direction of moderator Kelly Dalpiaz. St. Mary parishioners received their treats as they left weekend Masses.

“The Knights of Columbus used to serve breakfast at the beginning of Catholic Schools Week and we helped with that,” Dalpiaz told The Catholic Post, noting that couldn’t be done this year. “But we wanted to thank the community, staff and parents for everything they’ve done for us.”

“The staff of St. Mary’s is doing their best to keep things clean and maintaining a safe environment, as well as teaching their class and e-learners. Their work does not go unnoticed.” — Mitch Sager, Student Council member, St. Mary School, Kickapoo

The pandemic made it impossible to send people on their way with steaming hot cups of cocoa, so the Student Council provided something for school families and parishioners to enjoy at home.

Adding the “cherry on top” at the 11 a.m. Mass was seventh-grader Mitch Sager, who offered words of thanks for all the support they’ve received at a challenging time.

“The community has kept us safe in church by wearing masks and sanitizing their areas,” he said. “The staff of St. Mary’s is doing their best to keep things clean and maintaining a safe environment, as well as teaching their class and e-learners. Their work does not go unnoticed.”

And parents have faced the challenge of having their children at home doing remote learning while trying to work or dealing with technology issues,” Sager said.

“The students thank you from the bottom of their hearts,” he told them. “Happy Catholic Schools Week!”

SCHOOLS STILL REACHING OUT

The annual celebration of Catholic school education traditionally begins on the last Sunday of January and runs through the following Saturday. While visitors are not permitted in the schools as a safety precaution, activities will still highlight teachers, families, students, seminarians and priests, and members of the community in the days to come.

The listings provided by the schools show that service projects also abound.

Here are just a few things that are happening around the diocese:

  • BLOOMINGTON, Corpus Christi School: “Pack the Crib for Birthright” is the service project for the week, with students bringing in baby wipes, diapers, baby mitts, and winter clothing for boys and girls. Students are also invited to “donate a dollar” that will be used to buy gift cards for the seminarians. Eighth-graders will attend a Mass at St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington on Feb. 5, rather than all students in Bloomington-Normal Catholic schools as in past years.
  • BLOOMINGTON, St. Mary School: A food drive will be conducted to fill the Loaves and Fishes Pantry and students will use donations to participate in a “canstruction” activity in classrooms. Students will dress like their favorite book characters on Feb. 2, honor first responders on Feb. 3, and have a religion bee on Feb. 4. The week will end with a school art show.
  • DANVILLE, Schlarman Academy: Students will decorate Valentine cards for those at the Danville Veterans Administration Medical Center. For a service project, they will bring in canned goods for a build-a-thon and then donate the items to local food pantries.
  • GALESBURG, Costa Catholic Academy: Students will make Valentines and posters for nursing homes, health care workers, and first responders; make “thank you” cards for military veterans; and collect items for the Women’s Pregnancy Center throughout the week. Each grade will contribute items for a Costa Catholic Academy time capsule.
  • GENESEO, St. Malachy School: Students will support the Geneseo Food Pantry as their service project. A special Catholic Schools Week Mass will be celebrated on Feb. 3, and include prayers for those serving in the military, the president, Congress and nation. There will be classroom discussions about vocations on Feb. 4, and students will make cards for their adopted seminarian. School volunteers and staff will receive cards and a small token of appreciation on Feb. 5. The week will end with second-graders celebrating their First Reconciliation on Feb. 6. A virtual open house will be held and may be viewed on the school’s website.
  • KEWANEE, Visitation Catholic Academy: Many activities will take place via Google Meet, including a game show between the eighth-graders and the faculty, a religion bee, and parents talking about their careers.
  • KICKAPOO, St. Mary School: Students will write and post a note in the cafeteria about their favorite teacher memory on Feb. 2. They will write notes or create videos to thank their parents on Feb. 3, their pastor and deacon on Feb. 4, and their grandparents on Feb. 5.
  • LASALLE, Trinity Catholic Academy: Students will prepare and deliver care packages to homebound parishioners, cards they made to the Veterans Home, and cookie baskets to local community service personnel on Feb. 2. They will dress as their favorite saint on Feb. 4 and the eighth-graders will present a “Saints Wax Museum.”
  • NAUVOO, Sts. Peter and Paul School: The service project for the week is to raise money for Food for Thoughts Hancock County. Students will be able to participate in “extras” if they bring in a donation for FFT. There will be a talent show on Feb. 5, which will be livestreamed at 10 a.m. on the school’s Facebook page.
  • NORMAL, Epiphany Catholic School: Lucy Herr will represent Epiphany in virtually leading morning prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance for the Bloomington-Normal Catholic schools on Feb. 2, and there will be a virtual prayer service at 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 3. Students will send care packages to adopted seminarian Nathan Hopper and Brother David Monahan on Feb. 4. Eighth-graders will attend a Mass at St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington on Feb. 5, rather than all students in Bloomington-Normal Catholic schools as in past years.
  • PEKIN, St. Joseph School: “Thank you” posters were sent to school supporters, and the hats, mittens and gloves collected by the students were sent to St. Joseph’s sister parish on the Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota on Feb. 1. Appreciation care packages were also sent home for parents who are community helpers. Students will create a wall of honor around a flag with the names of those serving in the community and military on Feb. 3, and have a “Baby Shower for Jesus” on Feb. 4.
  • PEORIA, Notre Dame High School: Half-school Masses are planned for the sophomores and juniors on Feb. 2 and for the seniors and freshmen on Feb. 4. There will be a religion bee competition on Feb. 3 and 4, and intercom trivia on Feb. 5.
  • PEORIA, Holy Family School: Students wrote letters and made cards for first responders and frontline workers in the parish on Feb. 1, and sent an appreciate banner and doughnuts to Peoria’s Fire Station No. 3. Video chats with adopted seminarian Jacob Martini and Holy Family alumni Nick Conner and Jacob Harper, who are also seminarians, are planned for Feb. 4. An appreciation video will be emailed to school families on Feb. 6, and a virtual open house will be available.
  • PEORIA, St. Jude School: Students made donations to the Women’s Care Center and got pledges for a march for life during gym class on Feb. 1. They were to dress up like their parents and make gift bags for them on Feb. 3. Boys are invited to dress like a priest or their favorite male teacher, while girls may dress as a Sister or their favorite female teacher on Feb. 4. Mass will be offered for all living and deceased grandparents on Feb. 5. It will be livestreamed on the St. Jude Parish YouTube channel.
  • PEORIA, St. Vincent de Paul School: Students are collecting sandwich bread, ham, cheese, and sandwich baggies, and the eighth-graders will build lunches for the Salvation Army. Students will also make Scripture cards to go with the meals. There will be a saints carnival on Feb. 2 and 4, a teacher appreciation lunch on Feb. 3, and Mass and adoration on Feb. 3 and 5.
  • PEORIA HEIGHTS, St. Thomas the Apostle School: A virtual tour will be published on the school website and sent to the parents. Students will have a video chat with Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Col. Hal Fritz on Feb. 2, and with Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka on Feb. 3. There will be a virtual talent show on Feb. 4.
  • PHILO, St. Thomas School: Students will write “thank you” cards to shut-ins, nursing home residents, or local business supporters on Feb. 2. Homerooms will play Bible trivia on Feb. 3, and Father Keith Walder, pastor, will lead an all-school rosary via the school’s online video link. A volleyball game between the eighth-graders and staff is planned for Feb. 4, with students in fourth through eighth grades watching from their assigned seats in the bleachers. All other students and staff will watch via livestream in their classrooms.
  • ROCK ISLAND, Jordan Catholic School: Each classroom will create a poster to put in their window thanking parents for their support and write “thank you” notes on Feb. 1. A video will be filmed for the community and parishes. Letters and posters will be made for special groups within the school community on Feb. 2. A Mass will be celebrated for the middle school students on Feb. 4, with the priests talking about vocations.
  • WASHINGTON, St. Patrick School: For a donation to “right to life” causes, students were able to wear mismatched outfits on Feb. 1. Classroom scavenger hunts were planned for Feb. 3. Students will be making cards for their adopted seminarian on Feb. 4, and priests and Sisters will be remembered in a special way. A faculty luncheon will be held Feb. 5, while students look at the teachers’ baby pictures and try to guess who they are.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More schools and activities will be added as they are received.

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