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A new beginning

Sept. 1, 2021

By Sister Ellen Rose Coughlin, SSJ
Superintendent of Schools

Here we are again at the beginning of a new school year! Last September, our schools opened with five days of in-person instruction. Our principals, faculty and staff confronted the challenges of the pandemic and provided a safe, secure learning environment while implementing all required New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) protocols. Throughout the year, school personnel remained resilient and dedicated to the care of their respective school communities.

Although we hoped the COVID-19 virus would be contained by the beginning of this school year, we realize now that the Delta variant continues to circulate and the transmission rate increases, especially among children under age 12. As our schools open for five days of in-person instruction for the current academic year, we are aware of the responsibility to ensure the health and safety of each member of our school communities. To that end our schools will follow the Center for Disease Control’s guidance for K-12 Schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Guidance for Safe Schools. In addition, schools will work with the local county health department in which they are located for assistance with contact tracing, quarantine regulations and specific guidance driven by the intensity of the Delta variant in the local area.

We believe adherence to the above noted guidance and any additional guidance that may be offered by the NYSDOH provide us with the protocols that will keep students and staff healthy and safe and allow our schools to maintain in-person instruction five days a week.

The beginning of a new school year is an opportune time to recall the distinctive mission of a Catholic school. “The specific purpose of a Catholic education is the formation of boys and girls who will be good citizens of this world, loving God and neighbor and enriching society with the leaven of the gospel, and who will also be citizens of the world to come, thus fulfilling their destiny to become saints” (Teaching on Catholic Schools, Archbishop, J Michael Miller, CSB).

We believe that the students entrusted to our care are destined for eternal life. Thus, our schools educate the whole child tending not only to the mind and body but also to the spirit and soul of its students.

We believe
• every student is made in the image and likeness of God.

• students are citizens of this world and called to become citizens of the world to come.

• our schools are special places where students encounter the living God in His Son, Jesus.

• all aspects of the curriculum should combine Catholic faith and teachings with academic excellence.

• the education program and the school’s environment promote a life of virtue modeled on the life of Jesus.

• a welcoming and safe environment support teaching and learning.

• moral development and self-disciple are vital areas of personal development.

• service to others is an integral component of education.

• our schools set high standards for student achievement.

• partnership with parents is essential in the faith development of students.

• the witness of adults within the school community, administrators, faculty and staff is a vital part of the school’s Catholic identity.

• students can develop their full potential within a community of faith where people share a common faith and set of values, respect others and can work with and on behalf of others

Catholic schools are integral to the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News. Their effectiveness relies to a great extent on the teachers, administrators and staff who serve in these schools.

“Conduct is always much more important than speech; this fact becomes especially important in the formation of students. The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be lived and imitated.” (Lay Catholics in Schools: Witness to the Faith, Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education).

I take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to the teachers, administrators, and support staff in our Catholic schools. Pope Francis refers to teaching “as an act of love; it is like giving life” (3/1/14).

Since March 2020, the efforts of our school personnel to provide instruction for their students, maintain contact with students and parents despite restrictions imposed by the pandemic and adjust often to changes during challenging times are evidence of their interest and care for students and families.

A special word of gratitude also to the pastors who support our schools and to the parents who, often at a great sacrifice, choose a Catholic school for their children. May God bless the new school year.


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