In a series of unique events demonstrating the unity, faith and contributions of its Catholic schools, the Diocese’s Department of Education headed out on the road November 15-19 for daily Facebook Live broadcasts featuring its elementary and secondary schools.
Dubbed the “Catholic Schools Road Show,” the daily broadcasts streamed live from Diocesan high schools, hosted by Daniel Breen, Diocesan Secretary for Education and Superintendent of Catholic Schools.
With a pep-rally feel, the broadcasts featured a representative number of students and administrators from each host high school and its feeder schools. Principals and students shared information about their schools after an opening prayer from the high school chaplain. Inspired by marching bands, cheerleaders, mascots and their peers, staff and students competed in “Minute to Win It” games, in a display of competition and sportsmanship.
The road show was held during Discover Catholic Schools Week, a recently-new initiative of the National Catholic Educational Association.
Similar to Catholic Schools Week, which begins each year on the last Sunday in January, Discover Catholic Schools Week offers Catholic schools an additional week to leverage their good news. The celebration is designed to help schools connect with prospective families, donors, educators and other community members to showcase what makes Catholic schools the best option when families are looking to find the right school.
“In the road shows, we were trying to present our schools in a new light, to show the connectedness and unity among our schools, and to have some fun as a community,” said Breen. “I particularly enjoyed hearing students speak about their school experiences, and that’s an element we need to highlight more in the future.”
While the hope was to have around 10,000 people view the videos, total combined views grew to more than 18,400 people by November 22.
“It was gratifying to see how many people viewed the videos,” Breen said. “I think it shows that there is a real hunger for Catholic education in our Diocese.”
Breen was accompanied on the visits by co-workers in the Education Department, Margaret Barrett, Associate Superintendent, and Crystal Noel, Adacemics and Data Specialist.
The road show featured stops at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, Trinity High School in Camp Hill, York Catholic High School, Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, and Lancaster Catholic High School, with students and staff from their supporting parochial schools in attendance.
The visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in Coal Township, which had been planned for Nov. 12, was postponed due to Covid concerns at the school. The Education Department is working to reschedule a visit with Lourdes.
Matthew Shore, principal of St. Theresa School in New Cumberland, accompanied students Hudson, Maria and Sam to the road show at Trinity on Nov. 17.
“Not just for our area, but for all high schools and their partner schools within the Diocese, it was a nice opportunity for the greater community to see and/or maybe even understand for the first time that we are, in a sense, our own ‘districts’ (a.k.a. deaneries) as we truly look to promote a K-12 Catholic educational experience for all,” he said of the road show.
Students at St. Theresa School celebrated Discover Catholic Schools Week with a Spirit Week that included a skating party, a family night out for dinner, a pep rally and a Veterans Day assembly.
The Director Marketing and Enrollment at St. Teresa of Calcutta School in Adams County, Melissa Guy joined students for the live broadcast at Delone Catholic on Nov. 18.
“It was great for representatives from each school in our deanery to get together to celebrate our common vision – educating students not only in the core academic subjects, but also in the Catholic faith and traditions,” she said. “The middle school student representatives from St. Teresa of Calcutta School – Matthew, Emily and Owen – also enjoyed their experience. They were proud to be a part of something that could help their school and enjoyed the hospitality of our host school.”
Guy added that Discover Catholic Schools Week celebrations at St. Teresa of Calcutta included a service project to deliver goodie bags and thank-you cards to local nurses, and social media posts of “legacy families” celebrating three and four generations of families who attended the schools from which St. Teresa of Calcutta School was formed.
The road shows were an all-around success for the 36 Catholic schools in the Diocese and their approximately 10,000 students. The celebrations came on the heels of the news that Diocesan Catholic school have seen an enrollment increase of 6.5% over the numbers from last fall. It marks the first enrollment increase since 2013. The increase equates to more than 580 new students attending the Catholic schools in the Diocese, and represents the single largest one-year increase on record.
“As a Diocese, we are providing trainings and resources to our schools and strive to walk alongside them in the whole enrollment process. This enrollment growth, which is the first we have experienced in eight years, is a positive sign that Catholic education is strong in our Diocese,” said Breen. “It is also a sign that families are seeing the added value of what we offer, and that we are looking to the future as a system of schools.” “This increase is the direct result of the daily excellence of our teachers, and of the tireless efforts of our principals, presidents, pastors, and school leaders in offering exceptional schools where our students thrive,” he said.
Families are always welcome to explore the benefits of a Catholic education. Please visit www.GoCatholicSchools.org to learn more. The Facebook Live videos can be viewed at www.Facebook.com/DioceseofHarrisburg.
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness