The week inspired a variety of engaging activities, special Masses and prayer services, along with opportunities for welcoming the wider community to participate. What follows is a pictorial sampling of some CSW events held in schools across the Diocese.

SHOWCASE: Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft

A highlight of the student experience at Christian Brothers Academy has long been its focus on service, with graduates of the school having completed hundreds of service hours in the surrounding community. A student after that tradition even before he came to CBA, freshman Will Sakoutis is using his small business, Slick Willy’s Dills, to make an impact that aligns perfectly with the school’s philosophy. Begun in 2019 after Sakoutis’ extended trip to Greece and witnessing his grandfather’s skill in growing and pickling cucumbers, Slick Willy’s Dills has grown under the young entrepreneur’s direction, with $5,000 donated to local food banks and charities thus far.

“I saw this as the perfect opportunity to not only learn a lot about what managing a business is like, but to also be able to help hundreds of people through supporting local charities.”

Sakoutis’ initiative fits nicely with CBA’s mission of providing aid to the community. He has embraced that as he continues to run his business and contributes his recent success to the Academy.

Founded in 1959 and taught in the Lasallian tradition, CBA is dedicated to helping students become intellectually mature and morally responsible leaders for society.

“CBA has had a huge impact on the success of my business,” he said. “I have been able to learn a lot about how to balance important things in your life and how to run a business, while still being an active student. Both the students and faculty are super supportive of Slick Willy’s Dills, and many of them have even purchased pickles and are returning customers.”

SHOWCASE: Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River

Students in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, had a recent opportunity to contemplate the stars.

While gathered in St. Joseph Church, the students viewed a livestreamed presentation from the Vatican Observatory in Rome

during which Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory, shared Scripture, photos and personal

stories in a program entitled “The Heavens Proclaim: Astronomy and the Vatican.”

Father Scott Shaffer, director of the school, explained the program was to inform students about the relationship between the Catholic Church and science throughout history and to show that there is no inherent conflict between science and religion.

Brother Guy, who is known as ‘The Pope’s Astronomer,’ cited references to the stars in Scripture and challenged the notion that

creation created itself. When showing photos of Jesuit Father George Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer who formulated the Big

Bang Theory, he stated that one can believe in God and the Big Bang Theory. Brother Guy also addressed the Church’s relationship

with Galileo and the origins of the perceived conflict between faith and science. He challenged students to reflect on what perpetuates that notion today. Following the livestream, senior Julia Kurzynowski said she was enlightened by Brother Guy’s remarks about Galileo.

“He brought up the fact that many things we think are common knowledge about Galileo are actually not true. That challenged me

to think more about the sources of where my information comes from,” she said.

Classmate Luna Stellmach revealed she did not see a connection between the Church and science until Brother Guy’s presentation.

“For a while, I was convinced that science contradicted the Church’s teachings. I now know that rather than contradict each other, the two go hand in hand.”

SHOWCASE: Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville

Following research into other successful programs and colleague mentorship, computer science teacher Claudette Guy was able to launch the Physical Computing and Robotics class at Notre Dame High School for Fall 2022, which culminated in a Jan. 19 student showcase of capstone projects.

“Demonstrating their devices to the Notre Dame community… made students feel both proud and confident in their ability to apply the concepts we learned in the course,” Guy explained. “Moreover, it further enhanced their excitement about the field of computer science and robotics.”

From automatic watering devices to motion detectors and security systems, the showcase “demonstrated Notre Dame students’ willingness to try new things and to take risks,” she continued. “Their grit and educational acumen are clear in their completed projects.”

As with all NDHS courses, as a school started by the Sisters of Mercy, at least one of the Mercy Core Values – respect, integrity, justice, compassion, and service – were incorporated into the projects.

“What makes teaching Computer Science special at a Catholic High School is the emphasis on building students’ character along with building their knowledge,” Guy affirmed.

Making the subject appealing to a broad range of NDHS students is key for Guy, whose current class delves into cybersecurity and data science. The first cohort of AP Computer Science Principles students will take the AP exam in May, a Women in STEM Club started last year, and its robotics team is rebuilding following the impact of COVID restrictions.  

“I want students to get a true sense of what the field has to offer and to leave a class saying to themselves, ‘I can do this work!  Do I want to explore Computer Science further?’”

SHOWCASE: Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton

A staple of Our Lady of Sorrows School for the past four years, monthly service projects have returned to their original pre-pandemic form, with all students working together in the cafeteria. The service projects assist many organizations and people in need in the local area, and involve students from Pre-K3 through eighth grade.

“It gives me such a chuckle to see the older students helping their younger buddies,” said principal Maureen Tuohy. “They are willing to step in and do whatever I ask them. I’ve made it clear that we are called to serve, and they really enjoy and get into everything we do.”

Examples of accomplishments this school year include a Pajama Day, with students paying to dress in their pajamas and more than $1,000 was collected for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which will go toward additional research on childhood illnesses; a toy drive for Christmas for Mount Carmel Guild, Trenton; a “Socks and Snacks” collection Jan. 30, in which students brought in donations of new socks and filled them with snacks and personal notes of encouragement for the Trenton Salvation Army; and creation of handmade Valentine cards for Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, Mercerville.

“Examples such as these help to demonstrate to the students that we can serve others and follow in Jesus’ footsteps in so many different ways,” said Tuohy, “and they receive a sense of satisfaction for assisting those who may not have what they need…. I feel this is how we show our faith, and we instill it at an early age.”

SHOWCASE: St. Ann School, Lawrenceville

One could hear a pin drop as the American flag was brought into St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, gymnasium the morning of Jan. 31. Students, faculty members and guests quietly stood until the flag was posted in a stand in front of the room, then all joined in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem.

The ceremony opened the second day of Catholic Schools Week for St. Ann School which focused on honoring the United States and those persons who serve the wider Lawrence Township community including civic officials and first responders – police, EMTs and fire officials – “all who work to protect our community and keep us safe,” said Salvatore Chiaravalloti, principal. He noted that among the guests in attendance were Mayor Jack Ryan; Councilman Mike Powers; Chris Longo, chief of the town’s police department and Lt. Joseph S. Lech, police captain.

Father Leandro Dela Cruz, St. Ann Parish pastor, said he finds Catholic Schools Week to be an enjoyable time, then noted that during each of the weekend Mass Jan. 28-29, witness stories about their experiences with St. Ann School were given by a student, parent, a teacher and a graduate.

 “I do what I can to uphold Catholic education,” Father Dela Cruz said. “I see the school as a way of bringing the Church closer to the people and the people closer to God.”

Chief Longo said he has fond memories of Catholic Schools Week from when he attended St. Ann School and he was happy to return to his alma mater and celebrate with the students “in my capacity now.

“Catholic Schools Week is awesome,” he said.

SHOWCASE: St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson

Imagine watching some 2,000 boxes of cereal seamlessly topple over one by one down a long hallway, continue down two flights of stairs, go down another hallway,  around a couple of poles, then down the aisle of a church before reaching the end – at the front of the altar.

That’s the “domino effect” that happened Jan. 30 in St. Charles Borromeo School and was one that had positive results all the way around.

The Cinnaminson school began Catholic Schools Week by focusing on the theme of community and taking part in a service project aimed to help those who are food insecure.

Since early January, the students have been collecting boxes of cereal to donate to area food banks including Bread of Life, Oaks Integrated Care and the South Jersey Food Pantry.  But before the 1,800 cereal boxes were packaged up and left the school, they were part of a “two-story domino challenge,” an internet project created to teach about the positive impact a food drive can have.

The project began on the second floor with students and staff lining up on either side of the long hallway and the boxes of cereal lined up in single file down the center. After counting down from five, cheers were let out as Father Dan Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, started off the domino challenge by pushing the first cereal box with his hand.

By watching the domino challenge, Father Kirk and school officials said it is the hope that students will realize the importance of community service and how each person can have a role in helping other people in need.

SHOWCASE: St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square

The choir members in St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, have enjoyed opportunities to showcase their talent on a nationally acclaimed stage called Carnegie Hall – more than once.

In November, the choir journeyed to New York City for the fifth time where they performed in the 12th annual Christmas in New York. And if all goes according to plan, their sixth trip is just nine months away.

“The expression of song brings joy to our entire parish community, and to have a choir of this caliber at St. Gregory the Great is an honor beyond measure,” said Elizabeth Pelikan, parish director of communications.

“It is a beautiful thing to witness our students gaining confidence as they refine their skills ... Our entire parish community is very proud of their accomplishment,” Pelikan said.

Choir director Kristin Bergin noted that the choir is currently composed of 70 students, then noted that the pieces they sang for the 2022 performance included “Jesus, Born on this Day” (1993, arr. David Wise); “Christmastime” (arr. Trey Ivey); “Agnus Dei” with “O Holy Night” (arr. David Wise), and “Messiah: HWV556: Hallelujah Chorus.

For the students, Pelikan surmised that it must be quite something for them to say, “’I took the stage at Carnegie Hall.’

“It’s the cherry on top of all we have to offer her at St. Gregory the Great Academy.”

SHOWCASE: St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel

This fall, St. John Vianney High School welcomed 15 freshmen into the first year of its Business Academy, where they can maximize the number of dual enrollment courses in business and humanities over their four years of high school, graduating with 39 college credits, earned from Georgian Court University, Lakewood; Brookdale Community College, Lincroft; and University of Delaware, Newark, Del.

“These freshmen will work closely with SJVHS teachers, who are also adjunct staff for the colleges and universities, and learn topics such as Dual Enrollment Management Theory and Organizational Behavior, Dual Enrollment Principles of Financial Accounting, and Dual Enrollment Entrepreneurship Experience along with many other college courses,” said Margaret Kane, principal. “Included in the program are opportunities for externships, guest speakers, field trips and building a business within the school.”

Using the advanced technology at SJVHS, students will create digital portfolios to share during the college admissions process. Students will graduate with competitive transcripts and transferable credits.

Additionally, SJVHS offers students of St. Benedict School, Holmdel, the opportunity to take advanced mathematics at the high school while in eighth grade.

“Twelve St. Benedict School students are [currently] enrolled in SJV Honors Algebra 1,” Kane noted, “earning high school credit while still enrolled in SBS.” The administration hopes to grow the program to include more students.

“We are grateful for the close partnership between Father Garry Koch [St. Benedict Parish pastor] and Mr. Kevin Donahue [St. Benedict School principal] as well as the St. Benedict School parents,” Kane said.

SHOWCASE: St. Mary School, Middletown

St. Mary School emphasizes classical liberal arts and sciences, grounded in the rich intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church. This educational model challenges students in grades pre-K through 8 to think deeply, not just memorizing facts, but learning how to apply argument and logic—how to think for themselves. “The Catholic intellectual tradition has been the gold standard for education for centuries,” explained Craig Palmer, principal.

“A lot of the process in classical Catholic education is seeking the truth,” said second grade teacher Kathryn Abbud.

Classical Catholic education emphasizes questioning in which students are encouraged to think for themselves, and as a result, they become more fully engaged in a topic, learning how to find answers for themselves.”

Abbud pointed out that the strong foundation in critical thinking prepares students for whatever their future holds and emphasizes an intersection between subject areas that most schools tend to categorize. “A classical Catholic education teaches that science, the arts, spirituality, and other subjects are mutually supportive,” she said. She added that students are encouraged to ask questions and she tries “to create an environment where a student can feel like an individual, like they have choices and they can make their own decisions. while still guiding them when they make the wrong decisions.”

The classical Catholic education, she continued, encourages students to read more, question and debate important topics. As a result, classrooms are lively and extremely interactive, Abbud said. The emphasis shifts from simply striving for high test scores to cultivating joy in learning through analytical thinking, debate, and compassion for others — critical skills throughout life, she said.

SHOWCASE: St. Paul School, Burlington

This year, St. Paul School, Burlington, is grateful to have the opportunity to bring their students back together as one school family throughout the school year. After two years of separating the students and classes due to restrictions implemented because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school is celebrating coming back together again with the return of treasured SPS traditions and afterschool clubs.

One of the school’s most anticipated events happens when the student becomes the teacher. The special activity, typically held during Catholic Schools Week, is a favorite among the school community.

“We allowed the eighth-grade students to dress up professionally as teachers and teach a lesson to the younger grades,” St. Paul School principal, Maria Spirito, shared.

The “teachers” created age-appropriate lessons for the Religion classes on the topics of St. Valentine’s Day and the law of love. The 8th grade students planned the instruction, designed a corresponding activity and answered questions from their students.

And while certain clubs, like the Lego Club, have already started, the beginning of March will see the afterschool clubs returning in full swing for the students – something the entire school community is looking forward to with enthusiasm!

SHOWCASE: St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach

Technology is taking center stage at St. Peter School, which recently expanded its STREAM Made Simple Program by Eduscape, adding Photon Robots to its curriculum for PreK through eighth grade.

“Teachers are excited to implement new STREAM projects into their classrooms,” said principal Tracey Kobrin. “The interdisciplinary Photon Robot was designed to work across all grade levels. Even our youngest students are learning simple coding and engaging in cross-curricular STREAM activities!”

Teachers can use prepared lesson plans or create their own to teach any subject. “St. Peter’s looks to remain at the forefront of technology to prepare our students with the 21st century skills,” Kobrin explained. “Adding the robots enhances our STREAM program by giving students a unique and engaging tool to expand their coding skills [and] conduct experiments, all while having fun learning … Excellence in Catholic education is further amplified by developing students who are well prepared to think outside the box, create, revise and solve problems in this ever-changing world.”

Younger students learn how to control the direction, lights and sounds of the robot. Older students, meanwhile, can learn more complex coding and complete lessons – for example, middle school students are researching and mapping out the topography of the moon to create a 3D model in which the Photon will traverse as the lunar rover.

Additionally, the school will begin using new Chromebooks after an upgrade to its 1:1 tablet program.

“Seeing students fully immersed in real world inquiry and problem solving is a source of great joy and pride,” said Kobrin, “and [it] will prepare our students for the rigors of high school, college and beyond.”

SHOWCASE: St. Raphael School, Hamilton

St. Raphael School, Hamilton, welcomed a new principal this year and with his arrival, a new program in character development.

As principal Joseph Slavin explained, this new program, “Principal’s Principles,” allows the opportunity for the school community to focus weekly on different themes and values. Slavin announces the weekly theme on Mondays over the intercom and further expounds on it daily.

During the weekly school Mass celebrated on Fridays, Slavin discusses the theme with the students as whole, focusing on what they learned that past week.

Some of the topics already covered by the school includes respect, caring, kindness, being fair, sportsmanship and making good choices.

“Thus far, St. Raphael had covered twenty themes with Catholic identity front and center,” Slavin explained.

While the themes are explored in the classroom, it has also extended beyond the school walls as “Principal’s Principles” is featured in the school’s monthly highlight video and social media.  And as Slavin shared, it has also been a topic addressed at home by school families. 

“The students, the parents and the teachers all love it. Parents have shared that their children tell them the theme they are learning about in school that week. It has really taken off.”

SHOWCASE: Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy Lower School, Hamilton

In addition to an outstanding academic program that includes a STEM program, Project Lead the Way, student character development in the Lower School of Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, Hamilton, continues to be an important component of the 2022-2023 curriculum.

“We are especially proud of our plans and activities that foster character development and build a positive school climate. Each month, our “Make a Difference Team,” which consists of teachers and faculty members, plan and implement lessons and activities that are age-appropriate and teach a valuable lesson on character development,” Lower School director, Anne Reap, said.

The program, which started as an anti-bullying campaign, has grown and evolved and now includes lessons on peace, unity, love and gratitude.

“The themes are explored on each grade level and unique lessons are prepared. The lessons are cross-curricular and the monthly theme or virtue is also visible in a display around the school, serving as a constant reminder to students. It’s wonderful to see an entire student body working on a shared goal; being kind or showing gratitude. I am grateful for the “Make a Difference Team” for creating lessons that are not only fun and engaging, but meaningful for our students.”

SHOWCASE: Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy Upper School, Hamilton

Great things are happening in the Upper School at Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, Hamilton. The Iron Mechs, the school’s Robotics team, kicked off their eighth season with FIRST Robotics in January.

“The students have been studying robotics and engineering as part of Trenton Catholic’s STEM program and now have the opportunity to apply what they learn,” Upper School principal, Joanne May, shared.

There are 32 students involved in the program that meets after school and on weekends during competition season. The school also offers robotics and engineering as a course, taught by Mike Knowles who moderates the club.

“When I came to the school in 2015 there were four students in robotics,” Knowles remarked referencing the growing interest in the subject.

The Iron Mechs were recently featured on “Education Parade” a segment produced by WBCB Radio, where they discussed the upcoming season, engineering and marketing.

The team is currently in the build season with competitions scheduled at Hatboro-Horsham High School, Horsham, Pa., and Robbinsville High School in March. The theme this year is “Charge Up” and the energy theme addresses global challenges related to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #7 which focuses on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

Several students who have participated in robotics over the years pursue degrees in engineering.

Current students like Geovanny Herrera, a junior, also plans to expand upon what he has learned in robotics upon graduation from the Upper School.

“I want to study mechanical engineering and robotics will play a big part in that.”

SHOWCASE: Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing

What was once the dream of Filippini Sister Lesley  Draper to have a TV studio on the campus of Villa Victoria Academy, is now a reality.

Deacon Frank Golazeski, the school’s technical support person, said the generous donation given by a family of a 2022 graduate funded the creation of the TV studio last summer.

The studio, he explained, had been a former classroom and that two adjacent rooms were made into the control rooms, one for the video team and the other for the audio director.

The audio control room allows the student controlling the sound to hear the mix in isolation without using headphones, while the video control room is equipped with monitors mounted on the wall for the director to see the various inputs and the produced output. The video board handles four inputs: two cameras, a computer for prerecorded video and the fourth for integrating graphics and text overlays.

Deacon Golazeski said that students learned about the studio on the first day of school in September and it serves as “part of our vision to provide professional level experience for the young women of our student body – both in front of and behind the camera.” He added that the Program Production elective was made available to students at the start of the second semester and that the curriculum was donated by Comcast and is the same that the company uses for new hires.

Deacon Golazeski said that students are becoming familiar with the equipment and have been very active in come up with ideas for future programming.

“I was very excited to help get the project going,” Deacon Golazeski said, noting that he was happy to help create something that would be educational and something that the students would find fun and interesting.