“Thank you” are two of the most important words in the English language.
Their power multiples when coupled with concrete acts of appreciation.
“It has been wonderful to see the expressions of gratitude for our Catholic schools, from our parishioners, our school families and our community at large, especially during Catholic Schools Week,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight told Catholic school employees this week.
“This is an extension of that gratitude,” he said in a video shown to all the Catholic school personnel in the diocese on Thursday afternoon.
With that, he announced that each Catholic school teacher and staff member will receive a substantial bonus on Feb. 12.
A one-time, $1.4 million gift from anonymous donors within the diocese is being distributed to all full- and part-time teachers, administrators and support staff.
The amount varies depending upon the individuals’ role and is intended to bring Catholic school personnel’s salaries closer to their public school counterparts’ pay.
The bonus is also meant to acknowledge how gracefully and faithfully Catholic school employees have dealt with the challenges they’ve faced over the past year.
Bishop McKnight said the people who made the gift “understand that all our teachers and staff deserve a shot in the arm, so to speak, as we deal with COVID fatigue.”
It’s a well-timed acknowledgement of God-driven sacrifice and dedication.
“Although they could make more money teaching someplace else, they do what they do because they believe in the mission,” said Dr. Erin Vader, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.
Angie Shelangoski, principal of St. Stanislaus School in Wardsville, said the surprise bonus “makes a direct impact on teachers and staff who are out there with the students.”
“It’s something that will definitely help staff feel appreciated,” she said.
“The lengths these teachers have gone to — the creativity they’ve shown and supplemental materials they’ve found in making their lessons come alive through technology — it’s nothing short of amazing,” she stated.
She said the bonus and the bishop’s heartfelt “thank you” couldn’t come at a better time.
“Here in the midst of everything that’s chaotic and unnerving right now, this brings a smile to everyone’s face and causes us all to pause and say, ‘Thank God,’” she stated.
Born to teach
Anthony Arnold, principal of St. Patrick School in Rolla, said this gift says to teachers and other school employees: “What you are doing is beyond measure, and there is no real way to repay you, but please note that we all see what you’re doing and are so very grateful.”
He noted that when the pandemic hit last spring, the teachers, staff and volunteers at St. Patrick resolved not just to meet the highest standards but to exceed them.
“Our objective was to keep the kids engaged,” he said. “We wanted to make sure they’d be ready to return in the fall and hit the ground running.”
Teachers, staff and volunteers kept investing more of themselves in helping the students stay on track.
“They did this because they wanted to do it,” said Mr. Arnold. “This is what they wanted to do for these kids. They love to teach. They love these kids and their families. It’s what defines them.”
Likewise, the teachers and staff have been largely responsible for keeping school in session throughout the first semester of the current school year.
“It’s the result of a lot of hard work and going above and beyond, unbeknownst to many,” he said.
The custodial staff has remained on high alert, keeping the building as clean and free of germs as humanly possible.
“They literally mopped the walls, they cleaned the floors, cleaned every surface, every day, several times a day,” said Mr. Arnold.
The teachers have covered each other’s study halls, lunch periods and recesses and helped satisfy the students’ hunger for extracurricular activities.
“We do these things because we are a school family, and our teachers love each other and are trying to help each other,” he said. “We pray a lot and try to support each other and live out our Catholic commitment in whatever ways we can.”
He believes the real difference comes from being not a private school but a Catholic school.
“We’re far from perfect, but what we’re doing and how we are doing it is only possible because we are a Catholic school,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” he stated. “And it is everything Catholic schools are about.”
Mary McCoy, principal of St. Peter School in Marshall, said the timing for the gift is perfect.
“It will be very uplifting,” she said.
She said St. Peter School’s faculty and staff are “phenomenally dedicated.”
“They give 110 percent, all the time,” she stated. “The students always come first.”
She marveled at the spirit of caring and cooperation among teachers, staff members, students and parents.
“We’re here because of our faith, and we believe in what we’re doing,” she said.
The school recently celebrated its 100th day of uninterrupted in-school instruction.
“Our doors have been open since Aug. 19,” said Mrs. McCoy.
She chalks that up to the cooperation and consideration of parents and with teachers’ and staff members’ eagerness to keep pressing on.
The school provides solid expectations for respect and cooperation, and the students consistently surpass them.
They immediately turn to prayer whenever they hear about people who are sick or in need.
“We talk about how great our parents are and how great our faculty is,” said Mrs. McCoy. “But our students are really awesome, too.”
Having previously taught elsewhere, she finds the Catholic school experience to be unique and all-encompassing.
“We watch our students come through here,” she stated. “We see them grow, see them change. We try to give them the best tools available to them.”
“I’m confident that when these children leave here, they’ll have the foundation they’ll need to make good choices.”
Bishop McKnight said it’s a blessing to have such generous support for the mission of the Catholic schools and for the people who put that mission into action.
“Our schools are an intrinsic part of the evangelization of our Church,” he said. “The future of the Church, to a large degree, depends on the work done in our Catholic schools.”
He encouraged everyone to remain true to their baptismal call to participate actively, gratefully and generously in the work of their parishes and Catholic schools.
“This mission belongs to all of us,” he said. “There can be no weak links in answering the communal call to discipleship. Only by working together and giving to the best of our ability can we, with God’s assistance, accomplish everything He has planned for us.”
There are nearly 6,700 students enrolled in the 37 Catholic grade schools and three Catholic high schools in the diocese.
A complete list of the schools can be found at: