BY JOY MARQUARDT
With a balance of fun, faith, and service, St. Francis Catholic School in Merrill celebrates National Catholic Schools Week from January 30 through February 5 with a full range of activities.
“We will be organizing activities under the theme ‘Faith, Excellence and Service’ during Catholic Schools Week,” said co-director Kate Shimmel. “This is a week to celebrate our students and staff for their hard work and to provide fun activities for them to do while showing our faith.”
The celebration begins the week of Saturday, January 29 with a student-led mass at 4:00 p.m. at the church. Students will join three other Catholic schools on Thursday, Feb. 3, for a live broadcast of a Mass led by Bishop James Powers of the Diocese of Superior from Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Medford.
“We are very fortunate to be able to share our faith with others,” co-lead Stephanie Vanstrydonk said.
In keeping with the tradition of Catholic Schools Week, students will participate in several service projects during the week to benefit the church and community. The students plan to write thank you notes to St. Francis parishioners for their support of their school and are hosting what will be called a bowl supper to collect canned goods for the Merrill Food Pantry.
Outdoor activities will include building snowmen outside the windows of the Pine Crest Nursing Home for residents to enjoy. Throughout the school year, students made Christmas decorations for Pine Crest and Bell Tower and bonded with residents through a Pen Pal program.
“The students are eager to do the service projects,” Vanstrydonk said. “They learn to always be considerate of others and realize how lucky they are.”
In addition to traditional dress-up days, snowshoeing, sledding and other games and activities, students will participate in a religious retreat for all schools while making gifts for their grandparents.
“We want them to have a balance of fun, faith and service during Catholic Schools Week,” said Kay Berg, a religion teacher. “It’s all about those three things.”
Berg, who teaches weekly religion classes at every grade level, is busy planning projects, worship opportunities and devotions to round out the week.
“We’ll do things like First Friday devotions and the kids love to sing the Divine Mercy Rosary, it’s like one of their favorite things to do, so we’ll probably do that too,” she said. declared.
Deacon Jim Arndt, who serves as parish life coordinator and school administrator, uses Catholic Schools Week as an opportunity to connect with students.
“It’s a good time to celebrate our excellent academics, and it’s a time for a bit of relaxation and to step back and have a little fun,” he said. “We want students to realize how lucky they are to have a Catholic school in Merrill and how blessed they are.”
A faith-based education is integrated throughout the school day at St. Francis along with regular religion classes. Each student has the opportunity to attend Mass mid-week and participate in morning and end of day prayer.
“We have Morning Prayer and we just introduced End of Day Prayer this year to thank God for the work that has been done every day in our school,” Arndt said. “Our faith is not just for Sunday; it should permeate the week and everything we do.
Parent Amanda Hoeft chose to send her son and daughter to St. Francis because of the small class sizes and religious aspects of the school.
“We love St. Francis,” Hoeft said. “Every day they have morning prayer and they attend mass on Wednesdays. I want my children to be able to get closer to God.
Hoeft appreciates the school’s close-knit family atmosphere and the caring support of teachers and staff.
“Everyone is so supportive,” she said. “The teachers are great. They care a lot about the students and want them to excel to be the best they can be.
Hoeft has been a volunteer with the Home and School Committee for several years with church and school fundraising activities and events, such as helping with the annual Christmas bazaar and Donuts for Dad.
“I’m part of a parent group that helps with fundraising ideas and things like that,” she said. “I like to be involved in my children’s school.”
The annual Friday St. Francis Fish Fries and Cash Raffle, a major church and school fundraiser, will return on February 25 and run until April 8, for dinners, take-out and the delivery. The annual Spring Gala is tentatively scheduled for later in the school year.
St. Francis is currently taking enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year. For more information about the school, call 715.536.6083.