Catholic Schools Week begins

Saturday, January 26, 2008 | 5:19 p.m. CST; updated 3:28 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Linda Garner, vice principal at Columbia Catholic School, is looking forward to a student versus teacher volleyball game Wednesday afternoon, when she will play against her son.

Garner said it’s a chance to have some light competition and a whole lot of cheering. “They do try to pair up faculty members with their eighth-grade child,” she said.

The event is one of many during the 35th annual Catholic Schools Week, which was scheduled to begin Saturday evening with students participating in Masses at Columbia’s three parishes. A morning Mass Sunday at Our Lady of Lourdes was scheduled to be led entirely by Columbia Catholic’s fourth-grade class.

Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic schools nationwide are hosting events involving students, parents and members of the community to promote this year’s theme: “Catholic Schools Light the Way.”

Barbara Churchill said Columbia Catholic School appealed to her and her husband because they wanted their children to be in an environment with the Catholic faith as its foundation.

“Our Catholic beliefs are extremely important to us and we are blessed that our children actively live their faith throughout the school day,” Churchill said. “Catholic Schools Week is a time where we showcase what our school is all about to the parish families, the local community and future CCS families.”

“We send our kids to the Catholic school because we want the faith they learn at home to be reinforced at school,” said Carolyn Wikle, a computer teacher at Columbia Catholic. “We want our kids to understand and learn about God during their school day.”

On Monday, Columbia Catholic is having an open house all day, and Our Lady of Lourdes will host a prayer service at the end of the day. “We welcome family and community members to come and visit our wonderful facility and programs,” Garner said.

Garner and principal Kevin Kiley are both new to the staff this year. With 606 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at Columbia Catholic School, administrators are working with church officials to gather community support for a new Catholic high school. The school’s completion date has been postponed to sometime in 2009 at the earliest.

Monsignor Michael Flanagan said the main reason for the delay is funding. “We have raised about $6 million, and we probably need to raise about six more,” Flanagan said.

The high school is expected to accommodate about 400 students.

Last year, Columbia Catholic School had to turn away applicants. “There is more demand than we can meet right now,” Flanagan said.

Originally from Ireland, Flanagan was raised in a country where he said about 90 percent of the schools are Catholic. “The state paid the Catholic schools,” he said. “They haven’t the problem of separation of church and state funding like here.” Columbia’s Catholic schools rely on fundraising, school tuition and community contributions to keep afloat.

Flanagan hopes this week’s events will heighten Columbia’s awareness of the contributions Catholic schools make to the community.

“I think Catholic school education is still popular, and it has a long tradition in this country,” Flanagan said. “I don’t think it’s a competition with public schools; they meet the needs of the students. It’s like the old saying — when one ship rises in the harbor all the ships rise with it.”

“We may have a different teaching philosophy as far as religion goes,” he continued, “but it is only an added quality for our life.”

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