By Joyce Bibey
Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are ready for an exciting week with a plethora of activities to highlight their students, teachers, and programs.
West Virginia joins the nation in celebrating National Catholic Schools Week from Jan. 26-Feb. 21.
For 46 years this annual celebration includes Masses, open houses, academic fairs, athletic showcases, and community service project highlights.
Catholic Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine emphasizes that challenging academics in Catholic schools in West Virginia are complimented with life and leadership lessons in empathy, morals, responsibility, and faith.
“Our WV Catholic Schools provide a strong foundation for the future – spiritually, academically, emotionally, and socially – all in a Christ-centered Catholic environment,” Deschaine said. “Our children are challenged to be the best version of themselves. We bring our students closer to God!”
In West Virginia there are 25 Catholic schools – 19 grade schools and 6 high schools.
Deschaine said teachers, faith leaders, and families work together to nurture high achieving and morally responsible young people.
“At (Wheeling) Central Catholic High School, students are expected to accept responsibility for their actions, to respect others and to make good decisions in the context of their faith experience,” said John Yelenic, director of enrollment and retention. “The mission of a Catholic education at CCHS is to help students mature into Christ-like people -To Think and Act Like Christ.”
Kristin Moffat is a middle school teacher at St. Paul School in Weirton. For her Catholic schools exceed expectations because of mutual respect and responsibility.
“As role models to our students, we take our positions very seriously,” Moffat said. “We do so much more than teach…. We get to know each one of our students, and they truly become “our kids”, as we call them. Relationships are made, students are encouraged, and they know that they are loved. Our students know they matter to us.
“As a teacher, I know how lucky I am,” she said. “I have the most polite, respectful kids I have ever encountered. Why do they freely give me so much respect? They know that they are respected, and that makes all the difference to them. They care. They pray.”
Moffat said you have to experience West Virginia Catholic Schools to understand why parents and grandparents invest in the experience for their children. She noted a Hellen Keller quote to sum it up, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
For the Leggett family of Huntington Catholic education is invaluable.
“Our world changed the moment we requested to tour St. Joseph Catholic School (Huntington),” parent Asha Leggett said. “The strong sense of community was immediately felt from day one. We knew that our values were reflected in the school and that faith-based education was the future for our family. The teachers provide personal and invaluable lessons that will shape the future and forever be cherished in our household.”
Catholic education is an important investment, according to parent Laura Deiriggi, whose children attend St. Francis de Sales Central in Morgantown.
“We especially value that the learning environment in Catholic schools is Christ centered and service oriented because we hope that our children will take those lessons with them beyond school,” Deiriggi said.
The Catholic school community in West Virginia has adopted the theme, “Moving Mountains. Empowering knowledge. Transformed by Faith.”
The schools are continually evolving. However, core academic rigor in a Christ-centered environment will never change.
“Fantastic teachers, small class sizes with lots of individual attention, and the strong moral base that comes with a Christian education are all reasons we chose (Catholic school) for our three children,” said Oak Hill’s SS. Peter and Paul parent Caroline Swank.
The Department of Catholic Schools in West Virginia’s standardized testing assesses all 4,691 students not once, but three times a year to focus on and identify not only their academic performance level, but also their individual growth throughout the year.
Together this focus is successful and noticeable.
“During my daughter’s middle school years at her previous school, it became clear that she needed more than was being offered. The decision to enroll our daughter (in Catholic school) is worth any amount or distance we must travel,” said Beki Parsons of Buckhannon. Her daughter attends Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg. They are a non-Catholic family that commutes an hour to school.
The foundation Catholic education provides to children will result in successful adult lives, according to parent Kristen Lindley of Beckley.
“Life can be hectic and stressful, and we feel that (Catholic education) keeps them centered and strong,” Lindley said. “The combination of God and family along with excellent academics will help them to be successful throughout their lives.”
Angela Carter, a parent of St. Joseph School in Martinsburg, said it is irreplaceable.
“Providing our children with the best possible education in a Catholic context has been a priority for us,” she said. “St. Joseph’s School has promoted academic and spiritual growth in my daughters, teaching them to be successful in high school, as well as keeping Christ at the center of their lives.”
For more information, contact the Catholic school in your area or the diocese’s Catholic Schools Office at (304) 233-0880.