Celebrating the Impact of Catholic Schools Week

Written by Sarah Vahlkamp, Class of 2012

As a Quincy Notre Dame High School student, there was one week out of the school year that I looked forward to most – Catholic Schools Week.

Catholic Schools Week was always a big deal for us. Excitement, faith, and a spirit of togetherness filled the school. Activities, prayers, and fun events brought students together, no matter what grade we were in. Over a decade has passed since I was a high school student, but I still remember the excitement I felt on Monday morning when the week was about to start.

Sure, silly costume contests and fun activities intertwined with our regular class schedule, but we also celebrated our sense of belonging and purpose in the Catholic faith. It didn’t matter which sport you played or which club you were in; students came together to celebrate one of the biggest parts of their lives – their Catholic education.

It was easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life as a teenager. Catholic Schools Week reminded us of the importance of our Catholic education and faith-filled community.

The History of Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It was first observed in 1974 and has since become a national tradition. Schools typically celebrate the week from the end of January to the beginning of February to showcase school spirit and honor the mission of Catholic education.

2024 Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated from January 28th to February 3rd. The theme is “Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community.” I can’t think of a better theme to summarize my experience at QND.

The Importance of Having Faith in God and a Catholic Education

Most of my family attended Catholic schools growing up. My dad appreciated the experiences and education he received from Catholic schools in Quincy, and my parents knew they wanted the same for their children. Faith was always a big part of our family life, but it wasn’t until I was older and in high school at QND that I truly understood the importance of having faith in God and a Catholic education.

Education was a priority at QND, but so was self-growth. We were given the tools we needed to lead a life filled with faith while also being able to think and make decisions for ourselves. Catholic Schools Week served as a reminder of why we were there, what we were striving for, and who we were trying to become. I remember feeling a sense of belonging and purpose this week, knowing I was part of something bigger than myself. Our teachers shaped the way for our future, and our faith in God and ourselves gave us the courage to take action.

My Personal Experience with Catholic Schools Week at QND

My two younger brothers and I were all two years apart. I was the oldest, Jake was two years younger than me, and Zachary was two years younger than Jake. Our age difference meant that after grade school, only two of us would be in high school at the same time.

It was intimidating to be in a bigger school with new faces. My friends also went to QND as freshmen, but I missed the comfort of knowing my family was with me. However, it didn’t take long to realize that I was slowly becoming part of a different family. A family rooted in our shared values and faith-driven actions. Over the next four years, Catholic Schools Week became one of my favorite weeks to show the community and my family how I had grown as a student and person.

A community pizza day was another annual event held during Catholic Schools Week. Hundreds of people gathered to support their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and community members in their education. It may seem like one of the less significant activities, but I looked forward to the chance to show my family members what I had been learning that year in person.

We’d walk around the school, and I’d show them my classrooms, my locker, and where I usually sat for lunch. My dad would talk about what changed or stayed the same since he was in high school. When my middle brother came to QND, we shared our experiences with our family together. I will never forget how proud I felt to walk the halls as a QND student.

The Impact of a Catholic Education on My Adult Life

Looking back on my life so far, I realize that my Catholic education has profoundly impacted who I am today. My teachers and family instilled the values of honesty, integrity, and compassion, which have guided me throughout my life. I was taught how to have the courage to face challenges and the strength to persevere in difficult times. Community service taught me the importance of serving others and giving back to the community.

My experience at Quincy Notre Dame High School and the celebration of Catholic Schools Week have left an unforgettable mark on my life, and I am forever grateful for that. After high school, I attended Quincy University, where I received Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Communication, with an emphasis in Public Relations, Journalism, and Broadcast. Catholic education strengthened my faith and determination to follow my goals, and I continue to use the values and tools I learned to this day.

I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to experience a Catholic school education. As the 2024 Catholic Schools Week gets closer, I encourage students, teachers, parents, and alums to reflect on their faith-filled values and time at QND.

When we come together to celebrate our shared values, we aren’t just celebrating our schools or the Quincy community. We are celebrating the very best of what it means to be Catholic.

Celebrating the Impact of Catholic Schools Week
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