Holy Family School in Hannibal spent Catholic Schools Week celebrating the Pillars of Catholic Stewardship.
The school has been emphasizing the Pillars — formation, hospitality, prayer and service — and related concepts since the current academic year began.
“We’re really trying to focus on these Pillars so we can all have a better understanding of what it means to be stewards of God’s grace,” said Holy Family’s principal, Sister Bettty Uchytil of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
“We all have something within us that the world needs,” noted second-grade teacher Sara Hooley. “That’s the whole point of stewardship. We have to discover that and cultivate it and get it out there.
“What gifts has God given you? You might not know yet,” said Mrs. Hooley. “If we can help you unearth that and help you see the importance of putting it to use the way God wants us to, then I think we’re doing our job.”
Hospitality and prayer
Catholic Schools Week started with Holy Family students serving in various liturgical roles in the weekend Masses at Holy Family Church.
Several graduates who are now in high school or college came back to talk about how their time at Holy Family had helped prepare them for the next phases of their education.
Monday, Jan. 27, was a celebration of hospitality.
Students stood along the driveway leading up to school to greet parents and other adults who were dropping off children.
Third- through fifth-graders gave the adults a gift in thanksgiving for supporting the school.
These included thank-you notes, granola bars and painted rocks that say “Holy Family School Rocks!”
Tuesday was a celebration of prayer. Students placed spiritual bouquets, made of paper petals with prayers for others written on them, before the altar at Mass.
First and second-graders led a decade of the Rosary, followed by Benediction.
Each of the classes then spent time in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Parents and teachers joined them throughout the day.
Father Michael Quinn, pastor of Holy Family parish, led an all-school prayer service and talked to the students about the impact of their prayers throughout the world.
Formation and service
On Wednesday, they focused on formation, including education and learning.
“We talked with the students about how when we share our faith and what we have learned, we become better stewards of what we’ve been given,” said Mrs. Hooley.
The students learned about the gift of being able to go to a Catholic school, where they learn to be like the saints who have gone before them.
They created puzzle pieces to illustrate the Communion of Saints and how everybody fits into God’s plan.
“We talked about how cool it is to be a saint, and how we can teach others how to pray, serve and grow in stewardship,” said Mrs. Hooley.
Thursday was a celebration of service.
Students worked on service projects, including gathering donations for Holy Family parish’s Good Neighbor Project.
“They’re good kids,” said Mrs. Hooley. “This is in their hearts. So in little ways, we’re helping them see that when they babysit or take care of the dog or do something for one of their neighbors, they are actually being good stewards of the time God has given them.”
Friday was a celebration of faith, family and fun, including a faculty-student volleyball tournament.
“Use it to serve”
Mrs. Hooley said the faculty chose the Four Pillars as the theme for this school year.
“It kind of fell right into place with what Bishop (W. Shawn) McKnight has been sharing with us about stewardship,” she said.
Teachers throughout the school have been sharing age-appropriate lessons with their students on stewardship and a verse from Scripture: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)
They started by introducing the students to the concept of stewardship and what it means.
Then they moved on to the first Pillar: hospitality.
“In the primary grades, we talked about being welcoming to people at our school,” said Mrs. Hooley.
“That includes looking up, making eye contact and communicating that love and peace that Jesus gave to everyone He encountered,” she said.
“We’re calling the kids to look around and ask: ‘In the hallways or the cafeteria or the playground, how do you help people feel welcome?’”
The next Pillar they turned to was prayer.
“Even though they’re young, there’s so much they can do through prayer because so many people are in need of it,” said Mrs. Hooley.
For example, whenever a family member or loved one of someone in the school dies, the second-graders write their names on colored pieces of paper and turn them into flowers for a spiritual bouquet.
“Then all week, we offer our prayers for that person,” said Mrs. Hooley.
In Advent, students learned about how the Pillars of Stewardship tie into the story of Jesus’s birth.
For Lent, they will focus on mercy and forgiveness as extensions of the Pillars.
“We’re trying to show in ways that are appropriate for each grade level that stewardship means more than just ‘time, talent and treasure,’” said Mrs. Hooley. “We have to extend ourselves through hospitality, prayer, service and learning.”
The goal is for students to be able to understand why the Pillars are important and apply them to what they do at school and at home.
She cited as an example how service, prayer and hospitality converge each time the fifth- through eighth-graders help out at Douglass Community Services.
They spend one morning per month packaging food for distribution at the organization’s food pantry.
“It’s close enough to our school that they can walk there and back, so it’s an awesome gift that they’re able to give,” said Mrs. Hooley.
Last year, the school also raised $5,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
She noted that Holy Family parish has had an active stewardship commission for over a decade, and that adults are setting the stage with their involvement at church and in the school.
“It’s so much a team effort — the parents, the school board, the staff, the kids,” she said. “I see us actually becoming a stewardship parish and continuing to work on that.”
Mrs. Hooley, a lifelong Holy Family parishioner and graduate of Holy Family School, is in her 18th year of teaching there.
She’s grateful to be a part of a community that lets her share what she believes and put her faith into practice every day.
“I love what I do,” she said. “Whether I’m teaching social studies or math, I get to tie faith into my lessons and teach about Jesus.”
She’s been around long enough to see former students want to give back after graduating and moving on.
“They’re grateful for what they received here and want to do something to help the parish and the school,” she said.
“That’s our goal,” she stated. “When they’re old enough, we want them to make the decision to still be part of us, or take whatever seed we’ve given them to a new parish and continue growing it there.”