Catholic Schools Week celebrates service, Christian life Jan. 25-31

CHARLESTON — Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated in the Diocese of Charleston and across the nation Jan. 25-31.

The theme for this year’s event is “Catholic Schools Celebrate Service,” which is part of an initiative by the  National Catholic Educational Association called “Birthday Blessings for Pope Benedict.”

During the pope’s April 2008 visit to the United States, Catholic youth were asked to pledge hours of community service to honor his 81st birthday. More than 2 million hours were pledged. Many diocesan schools have turned the community service pledge into a yearlong theme.

Three Catholic school students delivered the pledged hours to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican Embassy, where the pope stayed during his Washington, D.C., visit.

Along with service projects, schools mark the week in a variety of ways and open their doors to visits from family members and the community as they shine a light on the blessings of Catholic education.

In the past, students have been treated to sports, music, theatre and literature. Numerous social events are held filled with food, desserts or dancing, and everyone enjoys a break from the routine with laugh-inspired competitions such as pie-throwing contests and crazy socks day.

The diocese has 31 schools with 5,861 elementary students and 1,874 high school pupils, according to figures from the Catholic schools office.

The annual event rejoices in education that goes beyond preparation for a secular life by also preparing students for a Christian life. A key element to the week is opening and closing Mass, which schools celebrate simultaneously, and praying the rosary.

Catholic Schools Week is a joint project of the NCEA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It became an annual event in 1974 with the slogan “Different Where It Counts — Message, Community, Service.”