PORTLAND — Maine Catholic Schools Week 2020, starting Jan. 26, celebrates the mission of Catholic schools. During the week, each school holds a variety of activities, family gatherings and service projects.

Among the organizations benefitting from service projects at Maine Catholic schools next week will be the Bangor Ecumenical Food Cupboard, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services, the St. Louis Child Development Center, the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, Ronald McDonald Houses, Camp Waban, among others.

“Catholic Schools Week is a time in which we lift up with gratitude the importance of our schools, and the significant contribution they make to the Church and the community,” said Bishop Robert P. Deeley. “The purpose of our schools is to educate the whole person of each child who participates in these centers of educational excellence which is at the heart of a Catholic education. But a full education for life also includes values, discipline, and service. Our schools strive to help our young people to see the ties they have with others, and the responsibility they have for each other. Love of God and love of neighbor go together.”

Here’s how some area schools are participating:

St. John’s Catholic School, Brunswick

During Maine Catholic Schools Week, St. John’s students will hold a religion fair featuring projects on display throughout the school. On Wednesday, Jan. 29, thank you and appreciation cards will be prepared by all of the students for the priests who serve in All Saints Parish, of which St. John’s Catholic School is a part. The offering of gratitude will extend to parents on Tuesday, Jan. 28, when students will write letters to their parents/guardians to thank them for their Catholic education. St. John’s will also lend a helping hand to those who seek assistance at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) in Brunswick. The MCHPP provides food for hundreds of local families through a food bank, food pantry and soup kitchen. St. John’s students will fill large donation boxes as part of a weeklong competition that will produce two groups of winners: the grade with the largest amount of donations and the recipients of the food collected. The school will be broken up into teams for fun competitions throughout the week. Each team has a signature color, a representative from each grade and a “coach,” who is a teacher from the school. All week, near the end of the day, the coaches square off in “Minute to Win It” challenges, small tasks that need to be completed in a minute or less. The schedule at St. John’s also includes school-wide bingo, a door decorating competition, basketball and other events. Bishop Deeley will make a visit to the school just after Catholic Schools Week on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Holy Cross School, South Portland

During Catholic Schools Week, the Holy Cross community in South Portland will hold a penny challenge, with all proceeds benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children diagnosed with a critical illness. In the United States and its territories, on average, a wish is granted every 34 minutes. Each penny put in a classroom’s money jar is worth a point, but the value of each silver coin or dollar bill is subtracted from the total. The aim, then, is to stuff your own classroom’s jar with pennies, while tossing in nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars in the jars of your competitors. In addition to the penny challenge, Holy Cross School will kick off its celebration with a Mass and reception at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 10:30 a.m. All are welcome. In addition, prayer services will be held throughout the week honoring different parts of the school community: mothers (Monday), teachers (Tuesday), students (Wednesday), vocations (Thursday) and fathers (Friday). Each prayer service will be followed by a reception until 10 a.m. Teams comprised of at least one student from each grade will wear their team’s color all week and compete in “competitions” each day from 1-2:50 p.m. Other Catholic School Week activities include a door decoration contest, trivia, an ice-skating trip, a pizza lunch, and a family dance.

Mount Merici Academy, Waterville

The Catholic Schools Week fun at Mount Merici Academy in Waterville will begin on Saturday, Jan. 25, with a “Celebrating Our Families” Italian dinner at the school from 5-7 p.m. The dinner is in celebration of the feast day of St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline Order. Throughout the week, students at Mount Merici Academy will collect items to be donated to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter as part of the “Together, We Can” Homeless Shelter Drive. Students in each grade have been given a different item to donate, including tissues, toilet paper, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap and socks. The items will be used to assemble personal care kits for shelter residents. In addition to the homeless shelter drive, Mount Merici students will also write thank you notes to religious women in the area and parishioners at Corpus Christi Parish, Christ the King Parish and St. Joseph Maronite Parish for their support of Catholic education. Other activities are also planned for the week, including a book fair, a bracelet contest, a door decorating competition, student vs. faculty/staff contests, a school-wide prayer service, student presentations on St. Angela Merici, creation stations, a bowling field trip, bingo, a school spirit day, and clothing theme days like crazy hat and sock day.

St. Brigid School, Portland 

St. Brigid School in Portland will join forces with Cheverus High School in Portland to host an Ignatian Family Mass on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 5 p.m. at St. Joseph Church, 673 Stevens Ave., to celebrate the Ignatian heritage of both schools and to launch their Catholic Schools Week celebration. On Monday, Jan. 27, St. Brigid students will make cards for homebound individuals and nursing home residents and the school’s penny competition will begin with all proceeds from the contest going toward winter boots for refugees served by Catholic Charities Maine. Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services helps refugees and immigrants become independent, productive members of their communities. From cultural orientation and referrals to case management and ongoing support, RIS provides the highest quality professional resettlement and cultural adjustment services to the refugees assigned to its care. Each day at St. Brigid will also have a different clothing theme like silly sock day, patriotic day and favorite sports team day. School-wide games and competitions also are slated throughout the week. A coffee-and-donut social will be held for all faculty and staff on Wednesday, Jan. 29, and students will prepare thank you cards for local clergy and religious on Thursday, Jan. 30. The entire school will attend the Maine Red Claws game on Friday, Jan. 31.

St. Michael School, Augusta

St. Michael School in Augusta will begin its celebration of Catholic Schools Week with an opening Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 9 a.m. On Monday, Jan. 27, author and illustrator Mary Preble will visit the school and meet with students to complete writing and art projects. Preble is the author and illustrator of such books as “Let’s Go to the Zoo” and “Let’s Go on a Hike.” A bowling field trip is set for Tuesday, Jan. 28, and on Wednesday, Jan. 29, the school will hold an open house from 5:30-7 p.m. The younger students will also take a field trip to a museum on Wednesday. On Friday, Jan. 31, the entire school will receive dance lessons. Students will also engage in a new hobby during the week — hunting for aluminum can tabs. Students will pull off aluminum tabs from soda cans, tennis ball containers and food cans and place them in boxes around the school. Maine Metal Recycling in Auburn will weigh the tabs, pay the current rate for aluminum, and send the money to the Ronald McDonald Houses located in Bangor and Portland. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine provide housing for families who have a child being treated at a local hospital. Since 1983, the Ronald McDonald Houses in Maine have comforted and cared for thousands of sick children and their families. The proceeds will be presented to representatives from the Ronald McDonald Houses at a school-wide assembly on Friday afternoon.

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