Large all-school mass set for Tuesday at 10 a.m.
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Under the vaulted ceilings of the Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison, and at parish masses throughout southeast Iowa Sunday, the 46th annual Catholic Schools Week celebration kicked off.
After a 50-minute mass was celebrated at one of Fort Madison’s most iconic and beautiful churches, Holy Trinity Catholic freshman Brooke Mueller read a letter to parishioners.
“At Holy Trinity schools, we are fortunate to be able to discuss and share our thoughts and feelings about God and our faith,” Mueller said.
“The search for knowledge is combined with opportunities for faith and stewardship.”
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Mueller went on to thank parents, extended family, priests, and other religious members of the parish who have shared resources to help foster the educational process.
The support helped the district move into a new elementary school in West Point at the beginning of the school year.
“We are proud of this future-ready environment that focuses on collaborative and personalized learning, while keeping our students safe,” Mueller said.
Madeline Taylor, the religion instructor at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, said the collaboration of the school as an extension of the Catholic system is what makes a Catholic education unique.
“It’s just a comprehensive education and being able to have a working knowledge of all the different subjects out there,” she said.
“But with the Catholic side of things, we’re very blessed because we have the ability to openly discuss theology, openly discuss our faith, and openly practice how to be Catholic.”
Taylor is in her 3rd year at HTC after converting to Catholicism as a 20-year-old.
She said, congruent to part of the message delivered at mass, that people are moving away from their faith and the connected delivery of the church and the school provides a special opportunity to make a reconnection.
“It’s really important because a lot of people are moving away from the faith and so I think a lot now about why it’s reasonable and logical to have faith,” she said.
“But then also how to encounter people who hold a different faith to us.
“We’re all human beings in the image of God – brothers and sisters, and so how to engage with them and talk with them and things like that. This is very much how to encounter the world through a Catholic lens.”
She said students are very good about integrating what they see, read, and learn as part of a basic educational curriculum filled with history, science, English, and technology, into what they see, read, and learn through the church.
“They’re really good about integrating it. There’s always a lot of questions like – in biology we hear this, but “Genesis” says this. So how do we account for that,” Taylor said.
“They’re very good about hearing something in English and bringing it to class, or something in history and bringing it to class.”
She said the relationship between the church and the school is more of an equal exchange and the school system is an extension of the parishes.
“The expectation is that they are very close, But this is a celebration of our schools, students, and community and we’re very, very grateful for that,” she said.
Sara Mueller, Brooke’s mother and a teacher in the system, said this is the Catholic community celebrating the community, and celebrating students, staff, and the Diocese.
“I’ve taught in public and parochial schools and the freedom to talk about your faith openly in a school setting is really powerful,” she said.
“There’s a lot of different ideas. We’re not there to judge, but to educate. Catholic Schools Week gives us the reminder that we’re there to celebrate and educate, and help them through this thing called life.”
Monday, Catholic Schools Week will recognize and celebrate parish communities with community members visiting K-6 classrooms to talk about careers. Students will also be making valentines for homebound parishioners and for residents of care centers and assisted living facilities. In the junior/senior high, students will deliver gift baskets to community organizations, and write thank yous to community businesses.
Tuesday is Celebrating the Eucharist and an all-school Mass will take place at the high school at 10 a.m. with more than 1,000 expected to attend from catholic schools throughout southeast Iowa. Parish priests will also speak in classrooms.
Wednesday is Celebrating Vocations and students from each grade at the high school will sign thank you cards for parish priests.
Thursday is HTC Pride and Spirit Day where students will be celebrating It’s a Great Day to be a Crusader. A Science Fair is also planned for grades 4th – 6th. High School groups are scheduled to present an assembly at the elementary.
Friday will be a celebration of students including a dress down day. Grades 7-12 will attend a movie and teachers will do random celebrations of students throughout the day. K-6 students will be bowling that day.