By Erik Zygmont
FREDERICK – Kicking off Catholic Schools Week with a Mass Feb. 1 at St. John Regional Catholic School, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori let students do much of the talking for his homily.
“Is anybody able to tell me anything about Mother Seton?” the archbishop asked, giving the students the opportunity to demonstrate their impressive knowledge.
One youngster volunteered that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American saint. Another noted that she had founded early Catholic schools, launching a brief discussion with the archbishop on Catholic education in Frederick County and those who pioneered it, including St. Elizabeth Ann and Jesuit Father John McElroy.
“We should think about the people who way back when, when Frederick County was practically a wilderness, came here and started Catholic schools because they believed in the future,” the archbishop said.
Joining students from St. John were students and administration from other institutions of that legacy, including The Visitation Academy in Frederick, St. John’s Catholic Prep in Buckeystown, St. Thomas More Academy in Middletown and Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg, as well as representatives from the Friends of Catholic Education, a Frederick County nonprofit organization that supports Catholic schools and their students.
Archbishop William E. Lori speaks with students during a Feb. 1 Mass at St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick celebrating the opening of Catholic Schools Week. (Bill Ryan/Special to the Review)
Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, also attended, as did James B. Sellinger, archdiocesan chancellor for education, Dr. Barbara McGraw Edmondson, executive director and superintendent of Catholic schools, and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner.
Archbishop Lori touched on the 2016 theme for Catholic Schools Week, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
“If you get a good Catholic education, chances are, you’re going to grow up to be a person of faith,” the archbishop said. “You’re going to grow up to have a great academic foundation. You’re going to be a person who loves to serve other people, and you’ll help the poor and the needy.”
St. John parents Dawn Strayton and Mary Haley, who volunteered to organize the school’s Catholic Schools Week activities, had their own reasons to love Catholic schools.
“I always tell people that their expectations for academic achievement as well as behavior are high,” said Haley, who completed eighth grade at St. John in 1986 and has two daughters at the school, a three-year-old who will soon enroll, and a son at St. John’s Catholic Prep.
Strayton noted that not only do her children get a “great faith-based education,” but they are “surrounded by great people” and “are coming to school safely every day.”
Students recess down the aisle at St. John Regional Catholic School in Frederick at the conclusion of a Feb. 1 Mass marking the start of Catholic Schools Week. (Bill Ryan/Special to the Review)
“I like how it’s a friendly atmosphere and all the teachers are nice and everybody knows each other,” added her son, eighth-grader Drew Strayton.
He said he will “most likely” attend St. John’s Catholic Prep next year and hopes to work in journalism. Currently, he is anchor of Wildcat TV, St. John Regional Catholic’s television station.
Prior to the Mass, Karen Smith, principal of St. John, welcomed students back after a full week of snow cancellations and offered her thoughts on Catholic education.
“We know there is so much more to life than getting good grades,” she said, highlighting the importance of loving God and following his commandments.
“We know there is no better measure of success,” she added, “than the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit in our schools’ classrooms.”
Concelebrating with Archbishop Lori were Monsignor James W. Hannon, director of the archdiocesan division of clergy personnel; Father J. Kevin Farmer, pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Frederick; Father Keith W. Boisvert, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel in Frederick; Monsignor Robert J. Jaskot, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Community in Middletown; Father Lawrence K. Frazier, pastor of St. Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor in Buckeystown; Monsignor Richard J. Murphy, pastor of St. Timothy in Walkersville; and Father Michael Jendrek of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Ijamsville. Father Louis A. Bianco, priest-secretary to the archbishop, also participated.
To see more photos or to order prints, visit our Smugmug page.