When it comes to celebrating faith-based learning, the observance of Catholic Schools Week nationwide brings the tremendous qualities of a Catholic education to the forefront of the dioceses and communities in which Catholic schools serve.

Entering its 49th year, the national observance of Catholic Schools Week will take place this year Jan. 29 – Feb. 4, under the theme “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” Since 1974, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) has hosted CSW for both elementary and secondary schools in the United States.

Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Trenton, believes the most important benefits of Catholic Schools Week are threefold.

“First, we celebrate the fact that our Catholic schools are where Christ is alive in our buildings,” he pointed out. “Second, it’s an opportunity for the greater community to understand the role that Catholic schools play – in individual children, in their families and in communities themselves. And third, it’s a chance to have fun in our Catholic schools in unique ways.”

During Catholic Schools Week, Masses and prayer services, open houses and other special events are held to showcase the value of Catholic schools in the community and in the life of the Church. This year, weekly themes include – Sunday: Celebrating Your Parish; Monday: Celebrating Your Community; Tuesday:  Celebrating Your Students; Wednesday: Celebrating the Nation; Thursday: Celebrating Vocations; Friday: Celebrating Faculty, Staff and Volunteers, and Saturday: Celebrating Families. 

Dr. Schmidt noted that while no one-size-fits-all for each school’s celebratory choice, he hoped that planning for maximum impact would “make sure that Christ comes through in everything we do, that it’s a true celebration” of Christ’s presence in every Catholic school.

Emphasizing the festive aspect, he encouraged schools to enjoy their Catholic Schools Week activities, and “the fact that our Catholic schools are here, fully functioning and living the mission.”

Parishes, too, play a significant role in spreading the Catholic school message, encouraging parishioners to consider a Catholic education for their children.

“I think it’s understood that all the pastors in the Diocese of Trenton realize the impact and importance of Catholic schools to the ministry of overall parish life,” Dr. Schmidt said. “During Catholic Schools Week, it is a real opportunity for pastors to have an extended presence in the [school] building, to witness, participate in and enjoy the ministry that directly deals with the youth of their parish.”

In the weeks leading up to Catholic Schools Week, he continued, “My hope and prayer … is that the pastors and schools get all that’s going on in Catholic schools in front of the parents in the pews … so they can hear about, see and experience what a wonderful opportunity it is to have a Catholic school in their future.”