By Tony DeGol
History is repeating itself in a very good way for the Stephenson family.
“My husband and I both attended Catholic school growing up,” said Kayla Stephenson. “It provided a strong bond between students. We are still close with our friends from Catholic school today.”
Now the couple’s beautiful young daughters are enjoying the same great Catholic education experience at Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Johnstown.
Cassidy is a third grader, and Madison is in first grade at the school’s West Campus.
“We loved the structure and discipline Catholic education provided for us then and now for our daughters,” Kayla added. “We look forward to their continued growth and success thanks to our Catholic schools.”
The Stephenson family is just one of many families, educators, pastors, and parishioners who are ready to celebrate Catholic Schools Week 2024 January 28 through February 3.
This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.”
In his Catholic Schools Week message to the faithful, Bishop Mark recalled his many years of Catholic education, including his high school years, in particular, when he began discerning his vocation to the priesthood.
“Many people are surprised to hear that my classmates facilitated that vocation as much as the priests, religious sisters, and lay men and women who were my teachers, counselors, or coaches,” the Bishop relayed. “All of them supported me, and we all supported one another, both in and outside of the classroom. It makes me think of the meaning of the theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2024 – Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community. In my experience and in the experience of hundreds of Catholic school students in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, there is a real sense of community in our Catholic schools.”
Catholic schools, the Bishop emphasized, are places where young people can discover the real meaning of life which is lived out in all sorts of experiences of community, including at home, at school, in the workplace, in the local community, and in the world.
“All that is made possible because our Catholic schools are inspired by and promote Christian values which are based on the firm belief that every person is made in the image and likeness of God,” he stated.
There are 13 Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and four Catholic high schools with a total preschool, elementary, and secondary enrollment of 3,030 students. The total faculty is 316.
Special Masses, open houses, and other activities are planned at the schools during Catholic Schools Week.
“Our schools create vibrant communities that encourage and nurture prayer, as well as provide safe, welcoming, and supportive environments for children and staff,” remarked Jo-Ann Semko, Diocesan Director of Education. “The blessing of Catholic schools is made possible through the deepest level of commitment from our pastors, parishioners, board members, parents, staff, and the community at large.”
The celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2024 in the diocese will begin with a special edition of Proclaim! TV on January 28 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23. The show will include special features highlighting students, families, teachers, pastors, and others. Then, Bishop Mark will celebrate the Proclaim! TV Mass on January 28 at 11:00 a.m. at Saint John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown, which will air live on WATM ABC 23.
During Catholic Schools Week, the Bishop will visit various schools including Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg, Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown, Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Boalsburg, and Our Lady of Victory Catholic School in State College.
[Photos: (Top) Students at Saint John the Evangelist Catholic School in Bellefonte join other Catholic school students throughout the diocese in celebrating Catholic Schools Week 2024. (Inset) The Stephenson family of Divine Mercy Catholic Academy in Johnstown.]