When we realize that we are still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, one may wonder what there is to celebrate as we approach Catholic Schools Week 2021. My answer is we have much to celebrate not only in our schools, but in the broader community as our world hears of the Faith, Excellence, and Service Catholic schools provided during these unsettled times.
Faith: our schools have continued to be centers of faith formation throughout the pandemic with religious instruction continuing, liturgical celebrations, sacramental preparation, and universal faith celebrations happening.
Excellence: when other schools remained closed, we safely opened our doors using distancing and safety protocols to provide students with in-person and hybrid learning models to insure that there would be as little a gap in students learning as possible. In our diocese, we obtained a 97 percent attendance rate while other schools in our area were struggling to obtain a mere 50 to 60 percent attendance rate. Our teachers and students were ready and willing to take on the challenges the pandemic presented.
Service: Our teachers gave of themselves to learn new technologies and have spent countless hours each day making sure they were prepared for the struggling student as well as the student who was ready to fly. Working 24/7 became a reality to our teachers and administrators. Our benefactors came through to support us by providing needed equipment, safety shields, and other PPE materials. Our Diocesan COVID task force as well as our individual school task forces met tirelessly to provide a protocol for a safe environment and continued learning.
Yes, we have a lot to celebrate during Catholic Schools Week and we invite you to call your neighborhood Catholic school to set up a tour and inquire about all that we can do to help your child meet their maximum potential. Nothing about this pandemic has been easy but everything is possible with faith and perseverance.
I offer continued blessing and prayers for you and your family as we continue to struggle through this ongoing pandemic by relying on our Lord and Savior to see us through to its end. Have a happy and safe Catholic School’s Week and remember, you are always welcome in our Catholic schools and I hope to see you there soon.
Jo-Ann Semko if the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown Director of Education.