To Teach As Jesus Did:
Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
“Catholic Schools on the Journey of Lent”
Typically, Catholic schools are not in session during the week after Easter, although this year’s late Easter prompted many schools to take an earlier spring break and to resume classes on Easter Tuesday. During my years of elementary and high school principalship, I was always grateful for the more standard calendar which allowed everyone in the school community to participate fully in special, school-based activities and commitments during all six weeks of Lent, culminating in particularly powerful Holy Week observances.
This year’s calendar challenge did not, however, daunt our schools’ determination or deter their Lenten mission. I had the privilege of visiting eleven schools this Lent, starting with two quite different but similarly moving Ash Wednesday liturgies: at Pius XI High School and at Blessed Savior Grade School. The theme for the season, at both of these and at all of our schools, was set and proclaimed on March 9: be faithful to and enthusiastic about personal prayer, self-discipline, and generous service to others. Live the Gospel.
Over and over again during the past seven weeks, we’ve received word about the quiet good being done as Lenten “faith in action” in our schools. Waukesha Catholic School System, for example, worked to fill over 1,100 bags with food or hygiene items for distribution at either the House of Peace or St. Ben’s Community Meal Program in Milwaukee. St. Mary Visitation in Elm Grove, having learned about the project, requested 300 additional bags to be filled by the members of its own school community.
Teachers and students at St. Boniface, Germantown, for Lent converted its school’s theme of TEAM to: “Together we fast. Everyday we pray. Always we give. Make a difference.” A penny drive, in which all grades participated, resulted in a collection of $3,200 to sponsor a child from Caritas.us (http://www.cartitas.us/sponsor-smcp) into its Stella Maris program, giving that child the opportunity to be housed, fed, educated, and able to experience a better life.
Students at St. Charles Borromeo, Milwaukee, created life-sized Stations of the Cross on the bulletin boards in the school’s hallways, with each grade taking responsibility for one of the 14 events traditionally commemorated as part of the Lord’s passion. Parishioners were invited to walk the hallways and to experience the passion of Christ as depicted by the students of St. Charles School. The 12th station, the Crucifixion, was particularly lifelike and remarkable.
Many schools, including Shepherd of the Hills, Eden, and St. Charles, Hartland, prepared students to dramatize the events of Holy Week, including the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the Last Supper. It would indeed be difficult, it seems to me, to witness performances such as these, by the youngest of believers, and remain unaffected by their solemnity and their faith.
Countless other Lenten service projects, including assistance on food lines, partnership with Habitat for Humanity, and visits to homeless shelters, occurred in our Catholic schools in all ten of our counties this year. Likewise, school leaders, teachers, and students everywhere participated in Lenten liturgies, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and retreats. Most notably, during each phase of the Lenten journey, school community members were challenged to understand their responsibility to make a difference in society, not just to “feel good about themselves,” but as a response to the Gospel call to teach—and live--as Jesus did.
Blessed Easter season to all!
Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools