Five years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, a former university professor, seemed right at home as he addressed Catholic educational leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Catholic University of America.
“Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News,” said the Holy Father who serves as the shepherd, pastor and teacher of the world’s one billion Catholics. “First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week from January 27-February 2, 2013, Pope Benedict’s words remind us how Catholic schools are a great gift both to the Church and to the nation. This annual event is celebrated in the Archdiocese of Washington and in dioceses across the country, highlighting the contributions of Catholic schools through Masses, open houses and activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.
The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2013 is “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.” Whether it is through our schools’ rigorous academics, faith formation, extra-curricular programs, diversity, or dedication to social action, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington raise the standards every day. Each school celebrates Catholic Schools Week in their own unique and creative way, and events will include science fairs, spelling bees, inductions into the National Junior Honor Society, making Valentine’s Day cards for patients at Children’s National Medical Center, making toiletry packages for the homeless, making “Meals in a Bag” for the local food pantries and holding a clothing drive.
The Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Washington serve as communities of faith and service, fully developing each student as a child of God through the four pillars of Catholic education: Catholic identity, accessibility, affordability and academic excellence. This school year, three schools in the Archdiocese of Washington received the prestigious U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award in recognition of the schools’ academic achievement as some of America’s most successful schools. This award is given to only 50 private schools nationwide each year. The three archdiocesan schools are Blessed Sacrament School (Washington, DC), Father Andrew White, SJ School (Leonardtown), and Saint Peter School (Olney). To be chosen, schools must go through a competitive application process and demonstrate academic superiority or dramatic gains in student achievement. The U.S. Department of Education also notes that a school must demonstrate a strong commitment to educational excellence for all students. In the 30-year history of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, 24 schools in the archdiocese have received this honor 31 times.
Each year, the Archdiocese of Washington strives to keep Catholic education affordable and to help as many families as possible have the opportunity to give their children a Catholic education. In the past three years, the Archdiocesan Tuition Assistance Fund has awarded over $15,000,000 to more than 11,000 recipients. This school year alone, over $5,000,000 in tuition assistance was awarded. The deadline for tuition assistance applications for new students is Monday, February 18, 2013.
The Archdiocese of Washington is home to 97 archdiocesan and independent Catholic schools, educating nearly 30,000 students in Washington, DC and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland. For a list of Open Houses and information for prospective students and parents, please visit http://www.catholicschoolswork.org.