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Catholic schools to celebrate tradition with weeklong event

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Once a year, Catholic schools around the nation take the opportunity to celebrate their rich traditions and open up to the community for open houses and prayer services. Immaculate Heart Central School will hold events this week centered on the theme of what makes the school unique.

Christopher E. Hornbarger, executive system administrator at Immaculate Heart, said what makes the school unusual is small class sizes, the welcoming nature of the school community and its faith in God.

“This is a time of celebration and a chance for us to highlight all of the positives about a Catholic school education and the opportunity students have to learn about God,” Mr. Hornbarger said.

Bishop Terry R. LaValley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg released a letter stating the importance of taking the time to celebrate Catholic schools to rejuvenate the mission of following Christ.

“For generations, Catholic schools in our Diocese have been integral to this mission. The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week, ‘Catholic Schools: Communities of faith, knowledge and service,’ encompasses several of the essential ingredients for faith to grow and flourish,” the bishop wrote. “The mission of our Catholic schools is intimately tied to the work of the New Evangelization: fostering a personal, dynamic encounter with Jesus and giving expression to it in our relations with others.”

The students at Immaculate Heart kicked off celebrations Friday, when the junior-senior high school held a student retreat.

The school stopped and observed spiritual reflection. The keynote speaker, Chris Stefanik, a nationally known speaker on the Catholic faith who also was the keynote speaker at the World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, in 2011, offered remarks.

Smaller events previously held included a “shadow day” during which sixth-graders spent a day in the junior high.

A week of celebration will continue at 9 a.m. today when a special Mass will be said at Holy Family Church. Afterward, students and their families from kindergarten through sixth grade will release a few colorful balloons and blow bubbles on the school grounds.

“We are starting out the week with a special liturgy. As long as the weather holds up, it should be a really fun experience,” Immaculate Heart Principal Gary F. West said. “They just get really excited and have fun with it.”

Tuesday will feature student-focused events such as a hats-off day, when students will get a chance to hear from the Army Band at 9 a.m. at the intermediate school and 12:30 p.m. at the primary school. A muffins and doughnut for mom and dad event and an all-day art extravaganza also are planned.

“The art extravaganza will have table-by-table art stations and kids can go to each and do a different art project,” Mr. West said.

On Thursday, students will wear white and blue to celebrate school spirit, and the intermediate school will feature lunch at the movies.

Finally, on Friday, the district will wear red and white for Valentine’s Day. Mr. Hornbarger said the week’s events will focus on the students and the school community and also open up to potential new students.

“We are always looking for new families to join us and our school,” Mr. Hornbarger said.

Three open houses are planned: At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the IHC Junior/Senior High School, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the IHC Primary School and at 6:30 p.m. March 4 at the St. John Bosco preschool, which will include tours and an introduction to the junior kindergarten.

“Our junior-kindergarten program is unique; it’s for students who may have a summer birthday that could go to the kindergarten classes but might just need a little more time,” Mr. West said. “We want people to come into our school and see what we have.”

Mr. Hornbarger said among the things that make IHC special is the flexibility at the district level to adjust course work, as it is not mandated under the same regulations as public schools.

“We can tailor our classes better for our students,” Mr. Hornbarger said.

Anyone interested in learning more about Immaculate Heart can visit its website at www.ihcschools.org or call 788-4670.

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