On Monday, students from Janesville’s Catholic schools held a carnival that summed up their values.
All of the games were Scripture-related, and the carnival itself connected the older students with their younger buddies—and all of the students with each other.
The carnival kicked off Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration where the schools emphasize their Christian faith and Catholic traditions.
The week started off on a sad note with the announcement that St. Patrick’s School will close at the end of this school year. The school, which has been providing Catholic education in Janesville for more than 150 years, has struggled with declining enrollment and increasing costs.
Janesville has three other Catholic schools—St. Mary’s, St. William and St. John Vianney—and all serve students from pre-K to eighth grade. Most schools have seen a slight increase in their enrollments.
Our Lady of the Assumption School in Beloit also offers pre-K through eighth grades.
Along with the carnival, school activities this week include an afternoon dance, spirit days, student vs. teacher volleyball games and a collection of soup for local food pantries to celebrate the “Souper Bowl.”
“The feeling around the school is like a homecoming week,” said St. Mary’s Principal Matt Parish.
But faith is central to all of the events, just as Catholic identity is “at the core of all our classes and subjects,” Parish said.
That identity includes the traditions that are important to Catholicism, said Chris Silha, principal at St. John Vianney, whose students sometimes walk to the church next door to pray the “Hail Mary” at funerals.
“The customs and traditions we have as Catholics help us to bring our belief alive within us,” Silha said. “They help us bring meaning to what we do and believe.”
At St. John Vianney this week, older students created a living rosary, with each student representing one of the rosary’s beads. It was an opportunity for all the students to pray together and for older ones to teach the younger ones about the rosary tradition.
It also gave students a chance to reflect on the Scriptures. Each of the five decades of the rosary is devoted to an event in the life of Christ, such as the presentation of Jesus in the temple or the wedding feast at Cana.
At Beloit’s Our Lady of the Assumption, the school celebrated family contributions with “Mornings with Mom” and “Doughnuts with Dad,” said Principal Trevor Seivert.
Parents and children also attended a special kids’ Mass last Sunday.
Like other Catholic schools, Seivert said the Beloit school teaches about social justice, which calls for equality, diversity and supportive environments for all people. The schools also try to offer students opportunities to turn those principles into action.
The values students learn at school “help keep them grounded,” Seivert said.