Holy Cross School in South Portland began Catholic Schools Week by celebrating its parish community. Students, dressed in their school uniforms, joined teachers, staff, and other parishioners for a Mass at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough. Holy Cross is the cluster school of St. Maximilian Kolbe, along with St. John and Holy Cross Parish in South Portland and St. Bartholomew Parish in Cape Elizabeth.
The Mass and reception that followed were an opportunity to share with parishioners the value of a Catholic school and some of the gifts that Holy Cross has to offer. While also stressing the importance of academics, Principal Cindy Elwood told the congregation, "We want you to know that our school is Catholic first, and faith-filled."
Elwood shared that the school's days begin and end with prayer and include prayer before meals. Students also pray the rosary once a week, something she said they look forward to doing.
In remarks at the end of the Mass, Elwood also pointed to the service opportunities the school embraces, which during Catholic Schools Week will include raising money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation through a Penny Wars competition.
"Our students are eager to be of service, and we nurture that servant leadership from pre-K through eighth grade," she said.
During the Mass, the students served as greeters at the door and handed out bulletins, which featured a cover image painted by eighth-grader Samantha Clyde. They also shared the readings during Mass, gathered the offertory collection, and brought up the gifts for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the end of the Mass, Father Innocent Okozi, SMA, parochial vicar of the parish, called all the students forward and asked parishioners to join him in asking God’s blessing upon them and their families.
"We thank you, Oh Lord, for all the wonderful things you are doing in their lives and, also, the many wonderful things you have in store for them in the future. We ask you, Oh Lord, to send your Holy Spirit upon them, fill them with your wisdom and your intelligence, with your graces and the fruits of your Spirit. Fill them with love, with peace, with hope, with kindness,” Father Okozi prayed.
After the Mass, students and staff hosted a reception, so they could meet parishioners and share what makes Holy Cross special to them.
“It’s a really good community. The education is wonderful. The teachers are amazing,” said Adrian, a sixth grader.
“What I like about Holy Cross is the principal. She is really involved,” says Kerrigan, a second grader. “I like art class because you make your project your own.”
“Because it’s smaller, we have more one-on-one time with teachers, which is really good for people who have questions,” said Mackenzie, an eighth grader.
"I like having smaller classes and then being able to do other things because of the class sizes. We’re going to the Challenger (Learning Center of Maine in Bangor) with the sixth grade, and we also get to go the food cupboard and volunteer there, and we go to Millcreek sometimes for science. We get pond scum sometimes,” said Lizzie, also an eighth grader.
The students said they are looking forward to Catholic Schools Week, which is an annual, nationwide celebration of Catholic education in the United States. During the week, schools hold a variety of games, gatherings, and service projects.
“I always enjoy spending time with other teachers and other people from different classes,” said Mackenzie. “It’s a good time to bond with other people instead of just your class.”
“I like the trivia,” said Adrian. “They make up trivia questions, and you get money, but it’s fake money. It’s like Monopoly money, and you can bet it on the trivia game. So, if they ask you, who is our pope, you can bet all your money, and then if you get it right, they will double your money,” he explained.
In addition to the trivia game, Holy Cross School students will participate in daily prayer services, during which they will honor mothers, teachers, fellow students, those with religious vocations, and fathers. They will spend fifteen minutes each morning competing in Penny Wars, collecting money in jars in a friendly competition to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of seriously ill children. They will also decorate doors, create thank you cards, go ice skating, hold a family dance, and more.
"This week, our students will harness the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we strive to pursue the theme of learn, serve, lead, and succeed," said Elwood.