The music of the St. Vincent School (Elma) Bell Choir and four flautists from St. Christopher School (Tonawanda) filled the Catholic Center cafeteria on Jan. 31, marking the start of the weeklong Catholic Schools Week celebration.
In her welcome, Dr. Rosemary Henry, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools said, "It's a wonderful time to celebrate our 56 elementary school campuses, 15 secondary schools, 17,190 Catholic school students and our 1,700 teachers, administrators, clergy and women religious." She noted that the Diocese of Buffalo is the 30th largest system of Catholic schools in the United States (out of 195 dioceses).
"We also know the 7,000 Catholic schools in the United States are a blessing to our Church and a blessing to our nation," she said.
Before offering a blessing, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec told employees of the Catholic Center and invited guests, "Catholic Schools Week comes at a special time in relationship to our Church. In our own midst, a great educator in care of the young, Father Nelson Baker, was recently declared 'venerable' by Pope Benedict XVI. He was engaged in the same thing we are: the wonderful mission of Catholic education." The Vatican is currently examining a miracle attributed to Father Baker. If it is verified, he will be beatified, the next step on his road to sainthood.
St. Vincent de Paul School Bell Choir"We have terrific academic results in our Catholic schools," Bishop Kmiec said. "You step into any of our schools and you will see the wonderful work that is going on there - the education of our children and the formation of their faith."
The bishop also acknowledged the great personal sacrifice that lay men and women make to teach in our Catholic schools.
Open houses, field trips and visits by parents, grandparents and special guests were just some of the numerous Catholic Schools Week activities conducted at schools throughout Western New York.
Carol Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic Education, was not in attendance, but a letter from her was read by Henry. "Our schools must be doing something right.
Academically, our students score high and rank in the top positions according to (the annual) Business First (survey of schools in Western New York). We have been awarded almost $3.5 million in grants in support of our schools from community and other funders; our schools are an economic development tool for our community. Employers want to offer high quality education to their future employees."
She also noted, "Most importantly, they are safe and caring environments where the children become lifelong learners in a Christ-centered and respectful atmosphere."
Concluding his remarks, Bishop Kmiec said, "Long live Catholic schools, and long live the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Buffalo."