Schools hailed as sculptors, revealing beauty

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
Students, from left, Haleigh Dennie, Wes Meiman, Myles Husk and Jessica Nguyen carried the gifts during the offertory procession at the Catholic Schools Week Mass Jan. 28. The annual liturgy was celebrated at St. Peter the Apostle Church, 5431 Johnsontown Road.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Educators and students who gathered for the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass Jan. 28 heard from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz that Catholic schools are like sculptors working to reveal the beauty in a block of marble.

The theme of National Catholic Schools Week, observed Jan. 26-Feb. 1, is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” The highlight of the local celebration was the liturgy held at St. Peter the Apostle Church, 5431 Johnsontown Road.

Archbishop Kurtz opened his homily by thanking the priests in attendance for their commitment to Catholic schools, telling them it “makes a difference when a pastor is fully engaged in the life of a school.” He also thanked the educators for their “vocation and commitment.”

The Archbishop shared with the students that the famous Italian sculptor Michelangelo once described his artistic process as simply chipping away anything hiding the beauty already in the marble.

The formation provided in Catholic schools is similar, he said.

“You come with a beauty that is God-given and, those of you who are baptized, it’s elevated by Christ,” the archbishop said to his young listeners. “You’re chipping away at whatever is hiding the beauty in you. It’s not making you a person that you are not. It’s revealing who you truly are.”

Teachers, said the archbishop, have a “gift” that allows them to see that beauty inside their students.

He drew the congregation’s attention to the Gospel reading from the book of Matthew where Jesus described the Word of God as a seed in need of cultivated ground. The work to prepare the soil is “grace” and it takes patience, he said, noting, the same is true in the classroom.

Speaking again directly to the students, Archbishop Kurtz drew attention to the Gospel reading where Jesus said, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The archbishop emphasized the importance of being humble and sincere — virtues cultivated in Catholic schools, he said.
Archbishop Kurtz left the students with a final word of encouragement:

“If you take initiative you will be amazed at the manner in which the Lord will work mighty things through each one of you. If you take initiative it will deepen and grow and transform your lives,” he said.

  • During the liturgy, several archdiocesan awards were presented to educators and a school volunteer. They are:
    n Dr. Lisa Wieland, an English teacher at Assumption High School was named the Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator.
  • Martha Tedesco, principal of Assumption High School, received the Distinguished Catholic School Leader Award.
  • John Gulden, a math teacher at DeSales High School, received the Irene Casey Catholic Inclusion Award.
  • Dave Frankrone, a volunteer at Holy Cross High School, was named the Outstanding School Volunteer.

Three students were also recognized as winners of the Catholic Education Foundation’s poster and essay contests.

The contest invited students to celebrate Catholic schools and the ways in which Catholic schools inspire students to learn, serve, lead and succeed. (See the winners on pages 7 and 8.)

There are more than 18,500 students and 1,500 faculty and staff at 49 Catholic elementary and high schools in the archdiocese.

The schools celebrated Catholic Schools Week with various activities. St. James School in Elizabethtown, Ky., held a community breakfast Jan. 28 attended by close to 100 business leaders. Assumption High School held a series of “Think Globally, Act Locally” events, such as writing postcards and e-mails advocating for laws to help people in need.

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