National Catholic Schools Week is as much a celebration of Christian values as education.
Catholics schools nationwide, including St. Anthony Tri-Parish Catholic School in Casper, have observed National Catholic Schools Week for 46 years, most recently during the last week in January. St. Anthony School, founded in 1927, has 259 students in pre-school through 8th grade.
St. Anthony Principal Cyndy Novotny said academic excellence has been a historical hallmark of Catholic education. An overwhelming majority of Catholic school graduates finish high school and go on to college.
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But the real strength of Catholic schools lies in the integration of Christian faith principles, high academic standards, and service to one’s community. And National Catholic Schools Week at St. Anthony reflected all these core values.
Faith activities included student participation in the Holy Mass and prayers for local first responders and government officials. Bishop Steven Biegler delivered a blessing.
A traveling coffee cart thanked teachers and staff for their contributions to St. Anthony’s mission. One evening, families participated in a chili and bingo night.
The students also went to the movie “Dolittle,” participated in an achievement parade and worked with teachers and parents to create visuals representations of things they wished to celebrate. On the final day, they explored a wide variety of vocations.
In terms of community service, students volunteered time to organizations like Food for Thought, Rescued Treasures, the Casper Humane Society, and Jason’s Friends, visited residents at Life Care Center, and planned ways to raise money for animals harmed by Australia’s devastating wildfires. Pre-schoolers made bird feeders.
“In this environment, our children are free to live their faith without fear,” Cyndy said. “It’s the spiritual integration. Our children are not afraid to be Catholic Christians. And they take that with them when they go. And they hopefully live that life according to what Jesus wants us to do. That is our main strength.”
Caitlin Dixon has three children enrolled at St. Anthony School. During National Catholic Schools Week, she helped chaperone students on the movie day.
“I think it’s an awesome time,” she said, “because all the kids get to come together. The big kids hang out with little kids, and all the families get to be involved. It’s just a fun, all-school event.”
Caitlin added that she loves the faith-based education St. Anthony provides, and she appreciates the respect students and staff show for one another.
Melissa Butler, who has two children enrolled at St. Anthony, drove students to Life Care Center where they visited residents.
“I think it just brightened everyone’s day, even the staff,” she said. The residents wanted to know when the kids would come back, so some of the teachers are already planning a return trip.
“I think it’s so fantastic that the kids get to go out and be in the community. They learn a lot of skills that way,” Melissa said.
The students realize that their needs don’t always come first. Such outreach activities also help the kids learn how to talk to adults, “and just how important a smile is,” she added.
Melissa went to St. Anthony herself, and many of the lessons she learned there have endured throughout her life. When growing up, even while making the kind of mistakes all children make, “God was always in the back of my head,” she said.
If you would like to know more about St. Anthony Tri-Parish School, and whether it might be right for your family, call Michelle Leyba at 307-234-2873, or visit the website http://sascasper.com, or the St. Anthony Facebook page. Financial assistance is available based on need.
Written by Oil City Contributor Tom Mast