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Diocese of Wilmington schools put service at forefront of Catholic Schools Week celebration: Photo gallery

Alaina Skinner, a pre-K3 student, helps pack up thank you cards that students at St. Mary Magdalen attached to blankets and scarves that were donated to the Ministry of Caring during Catholic Schools Week. Photo courtesy of St. Mary Magdalen School

Catholic Schools Week in the Diocese of Wilmington took on a new look in 2021 thanks to a few factors. Coronavirus-related restrictions has many students in school only part-time, and CSW staples such as grandparents’ day are not possible when visitors can’t enter the buildings. On top of that, snow in the northern part of the diocese meant schools were not open for anyone on Feb. 1 and 2.

Those situations, however, did not alter the resolve of students around the diocese to help their communities. Here is a look at service projects at four Catholic elementary schools.

St. Ann School in Wilmington partnered with its next-door neighbor, Highlands Elementary School, conducting “pencil wars” to collect school supplies for the Red Clay school. The eighth-graders took a nearly block-long caravan of wagons, trolleys and scooters up the street with 34,143 school supplies, including pencils, markers, crayons, notebooks and dry-erase boards to Highlands’ front door, principal Pat Grant said. Highlands will distribute the materials, especially to those students who are learning online at home.

According to Grant, Highlands had done a survey of its families about which supplies were needed most. St. Ann responded as part of its Community Appreciation Day. Grant said Highlands let St. Ann use its playground earlier this year for some physical-education classes and the occasional recess period. Highlands was exclusively remote learning at the time.

The principal of Highlands, Chrishaun Fitzgerald, said the schools began a partnership at the beginning of this year. She said that since St. Ann’s students returned to their building first, Grant “shared lessons learned with basic operational procedures and staffing concerns. As the winter progressed.”

Donilon said Highlands came to mind immediately when the idea of Pencil Wars came up. Not only are they neighbors, but Highlands is a Title I school, which include a large percentage of low-income students. Parents of Highlands students were surveyed about their needs.

“We collected 19,855 pencils, 12,706 crayons, 856 dry-erase markers and dry-erase boards, and assortment of masks and rulers,” Donilon said. “To be honest, the generosity of St. Ann families never ceases to amaze me. I am often left speechless about the kindness I witness everyday.”

Fitzgerald said with her students still at home, their access to school supplies is diminished quickly. The St. Ann’s community, which she described as thoughtful and committed, filled a real need.

“St. Ann’s … blessed our student body with many school supplies,” she said. “They collected over 34,000 school supplies for our scholars.”

In Dover, students at Holy Cross School celebrated Catholic Schools Week with several activities, including a sock collection for the homeless in the community. School spokeswoman Jill Zink said 660 pairs of socks were collected on Feb. 4, and they were donated to Code Purple Delaware in Kent County. This is the second year Holy Cross has given to Code Purple.

Students who participated were allowed to wear silly socks to school with their uniform.

Silly Sock Day was organized by Holy Cross School’s Religion Committee. Students turned in the socks during homeroom, and then eighth-graders collected them. Kindergarten students turned the project into a math lesson, counting them by the hundreds.

At St. Peter the Apostle School in New Castle, the third grade collected toiletries for the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Delaware National Guard. The items were brought to the school during Catholic Schools Week, and they were packaged the next week.

Third-grade teacher Lori Watts said several organizations were considered, but at the suggestion of principal Mark Zitz, they went with the Little Sisters. The Jeanne Jugan Residence listed items of need during the pandemic, and St. Peter’s responded. The school has several students with family members serving in the National Guard, which made them an easy choice.

“These two organizations fit perfectly into Catholic Schools Week by celebrating our community and celebrating our nation,” Watts said. “We also made cards and posters for the guardsmen and the seniors at the residence center. We sent our love, our prayers, our encouragement, and our thanks for all that they have done and continue to do in making our world a better place.”

And students at St. Mary Magdalen in north Wilmington continued its work for the Ministry of Caring. In January they donated more than 8,000 pairs of socks, according to principal Patrick Tiernan, and they wrote personalized cards and letters that were attached to more than 200 handmade scarves and blankets. They also prepared more than 600 lunches for the three Emmanuel Dining Rooms.

“It’s important that Catholic school students learn the lessons of charity as a step toward social justice,” principal Patrick Tiernan said. “By building awareness, we all come to a deeper understanding of what it means to build the Kingdom of God.”

All of the photos were submitted by the respective schools.