PORTLAND — Activities organized to celebrate the fun, faith, and family that define Maine’s Catholic schools highlight the Catholic Schools Week schedules across the state on January 31 to February 6, but teachers and administrators hope that it’s the ways in which the students will give back that will provide the most indelible memories.

“We will do the best we can in this most unusual year to make this a fun and meaningful week for everyone,” said Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael School in Augusta.

“This is a time to celebrate who we are and what makes us different from public school, how we can celebrate our faith and serve others,” said Nancy Naimey, principal of St. James School in Biddeford.

The Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, the Make-A-Wish Maine, Bangor Ecumenical Food Cupboard, Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services, Camp Waban, St. Mary’s d’Youville Pavilion, Meals on Wheels, and Woodlands Senior Living are just some of the community organizations that will be the recipients of service projects during the week.

The students will also take the time to write letters, make cards, and create other gifts of gratitude for residents at nursing homes, clergy, and veterans, as well as health care workers, first responders, and local businesses for their efforts during the pandemic. 

Below you will find a list of the events taking place at Catholic schools in Maine for this year’s celebration. Additional schools and events will be added as schedules are confirmed at www.portlanddiocese.org/CatholicSchoolsWeek2021.

All Saints Catholic School, Bangor

On Sunday, January 31, the school will celebrate St. Paul the Apostle Parish, of which All Saints is a part, through student-created posters that will be displayed in the parish churches thanking parishioners for their ongoing support. Students will serve as readers at Masses at St. Mary and St. John Church in Bangor as well. On Monday, February 1, All Saints will celebrate the community by kicking off a major service project entitled “Souper Socks” where families will donate cans of soup or pairs of socks to build up a large donation for both the Bangor Ecumenical Food Cupboard. an organization that has been serving the hungry in the city since 1975, and the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, which is open 365 days a year and provides an overnight shelter, day services, a daily soup kitchen, food pantry, and an overnight winter warming center. Students will wear “crazy socks” on Monday to help promote the campaign and make posters and cards for the food cupboard and shelter to let clients know they are praying for them. The classroom with the most donations will have the choice of an ice cream party or a hot cocoa party. On Tuesday, February 2, the celebration shifts to the students with videos made by teachers, fun activities, a dress down day, and cards created for fellow students. Virtual class meetings are scheduled with students at other Catholic schools in Maine, and accomplishments of All Saints students will be celebrated on the school’s social media platforms and website. Wednesday, February 3, will be dedicated to celebrating our nation as the school will collect donations for local heroes, wear patriotic colors, and write letters to area military, first responders, doctors, nurses, mail persons, and others. On Thursday, February 4, All Saints will celebrate vocations through virtual meetings with women religious, priests, and others. Student vocation projects will be showcased and middle school students will complete projects about their favorite saint. Students will also create cards for local priests and women religious. On Friday, February 5, teachers, staff, and volunteers will be honored with a free lunch and “goodie” baskets. Students will also make cards for their teachers and staff members. All Saints will wrap up the week by celebrating school families through the display of family posters, created by students that will be hung around the school’s two campuses for the rest of February.

St. James School, Biddeford

St. James School in Biddeford will kick off its Catholic Schools Week celebration with a Mass and take-home turkey supper on Saturday, January 30. The Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m. at Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco and live-streamed on the Good Shepherd Parish website. Students will serve as readers and in other capacities during the celebration. Following Mass, the dinner will be served curbside outside of the hall at St. Joseph Church in Biddeford from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Those interested in participating can order their dinners at (207) 282-4084. On Monday, February 1, students will write about what St. James School means to them with submissions appearing in the parish bulletins. Students will also participate in a “crazy/mismatched dress down day.” On Tuesday, February 2, students will create posters about their faith that will be displayed in local churches, St. Joseph’s Convent, and around town. The staff will be wearing Superman shirts on Tuesday. Wednesday, February 3, will be Prayer Partner Day at the school, which will also involve Zoom meetings between students. If there is snow on the ground, the school will hold a Make a Snowman or Snow Angel Night on Wednesday. If there is no snow, students will participate in board games with their families and friends. On Thursday, February 4, students will decorate the windows of the school with thank you messages for health care workers, first responders, priests and women religious, parishioners, and other groups. Thursday is also “Dress Like a Mainer” Day at the school. On Friday, February 5, students will participate in a rock/paper/scissors contest that will also be live-streamed to students participating from home. Students will also bring in soup and monetary donations for local organizations on Friday as part of its own “Souper Bowl.”

St. Michael School, Augusta

Catholic Schools Week at St. Michael will begin with a door decorating contest featuring the theme of Catholic Schools Week (Faith, Excellence, Service) with staff members judging the creativity of the classroom doors. Students were allowed to vote on how they would “dress down” each day of Catholic Schools Week with the winners being Crazy Hair and Hat Day (Monday), Mismatch Day (Tuesday), Business on Top and Party on the Bottom Day (Wednesday), Mainer Plaid Day (Thursday), and College Day (Friday). Per usual, St. Michael is not short on creative and fun activities to fill the schedule during the week. On Monday, February 1, the students will compete in class trivia contests. On February 2, “Name that Tune” Tuesday will be held. On Wednesday, February 3, the students will participate in a daylong Bingo game. Other activities include a socially distanced teddy bear parade and hula hoop competitions. Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael, will have Zoom story times for the students participating from home as well. The school-wide service project for the week will collect school supplies for refugee children in Maine that are served by Catholic Charities Maine’s Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS). In Maine, RIS has led the way in offering that welcome. RIS helps those seeking a new life in America to become responsible and self-reliant members of the community. The program welcomes refugees upon their arrival; meets basic needs like housing, food, and clothing; arranges for language lessons; offers community, cultural, and employment orientation; assists with employment development and placement; helps with family reunification; and offers medical and mental health referrals. RIS provides immersion programs to refugees like the American Friends Program, which matches English-speaking families or individuals with refugee families to integrate them into the community, and the RIS Mentoring Program, which matches refugees with volunteer mentors who help them reach their personal, academic, and career goals.

St. Thomas School, Sanford

At St. Thomas School in Sanford, each day of Catholic Schools Week will feature an element of spirit, a fun activity, a prize or treat, a service project, and more. On Monday, February 1, students will wear blue and white and play virtual Bingo via Google Meets; distribute gift cards to three lucky students; and collect pennies and other monetary donations for Camp Waban in Sanford, which offers programs that allow people of all abilities to boat, swim, hike, and enjoy other outdoor activities. On Tuesday, February 2, students will have a career “dress up” day; decorate doors in the school to celebrate the Catholic Schools Week theme; hold ice cream parties; and collect food for the local food pantry. On Wednesday, February 3, the students will wear their uniforms and attend a school-wide Mass; create paper quilt squares promoting the theme “Why We Love Our School”; enjoy heart candy boxes; and write thank you cards to local first responders and hospital workers. On Thursday, February 4, the students will participate in “Comfy Clothes Day” and bring their favorite stuffed animal friends to school; enjoy a “Stop, Drop, and Read” event as well as a movie in the afternoon (complete with popcorn and treats); and bring in school supplies to be donated to the “Stuff the Bus” initiative. “Stuff the Bus” holds collections of school supplies to help all York County children get off to a good start in school each year. On Friday, February 5, Catholic Schools Week will wrap up at St. Thomas with the students wearing the attire of their favorite sports teams; participating in athletic competitions; and making Valentine’s Day cards for local nursing homes.  

Holy Cross School, South Portland

Catholic Schools Week at Holy Cross School will carry on its tradition of forming teams featuring representation from different grades that will work and spend time together during the week. The teams will be named on Friday, January 29, before the week officially kicks off with a special Mass at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough on Saturday, January 30, at 5 p.m. A selected group of families will represent the entire school at the socially distanced, crowd-limited Mass, which will be live-streamed on the website of St. John Paul II Parish, of which Holy Cross School is a part. On Monday, February 1, the school will celebrate the community by starting a weeklong penny challenge to benefit Make-A-Wish Maine. The organization creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Unlike most fundraisers, in Penny Wars, the simple cent is the most treasured donation. Each penny put in a classroom’s money jar is worth a point, but the value of each silver coin or dollar bill is subtracted from the total. The aim, then, is to stuff your own classroom’s jar with pennies, while tossing in nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars in the jars of your competitors. The doors of the school will be decorated in accordance with the Catholic Schools Week theme, and students will also participate in a Zoom prayer service along with the students working from home. Each day of the week will also include team games in the gym and outdoors. On Wednesday, February 3, students will wear patriotic attire to honor our nation, and on Thursday, February 4, the students will celebrate vocations through special themed activities. The day will conclude with a dance party in each classroom. On Friday, February 5, the school will honor faculty, staff, and volunteers and compete in school-wide trivia competitions.  

St. John’s Catholic School, Brunswick

Catholic Schools Week will begin a little early this year at St. John’s with a school-wide spelling bee on January 27 that will also offer participants the chance to compete via Zoom. Prior to the week, students will complete bulletin boards around the school as part of the school’s religion fair. Throughout the week, students, teachers, and staff will participate in a food collection contest between classrooms with all proceeds benefitting the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, which works to reduce hunger by providing food assistance, strategies for sustainable living, and referral services to households living at or below poverty in the greater Brunswick area. On Monday, February 1, St. Valentine “bandits” will get to work making thank you “hearts” for community businesses and organizations around Brunswick before posting them, anonymously, on the doors of the businesses and organizations throughout the town during special walking field trips on Tuesday. Other commemorations scheduled for the week include a vocations day, a Living Rosary to pray for our country, an outdoor “Winter Olympics” competition, special dress up days, school-wide Bingo, and a STREAM Day when classrooms will complete a variety of STREAM projects. In addition, students will write thank you letters to their parents and guardians for providing them with the opportunity to receive a Catholic education. 

Saint Dominic Academy, Lewiston/Auburn 

Students on both campuses of St. Dom’s will complete a variety of service projects benefitting local organizations and groups to impart the importance of giving back to the community. Among other projects, students will create Valentine’s cards for residents at St. Mary’s d’Youville Pavilion in Lewiston, one of New England’s largest nursing homes; participate in a “hop-a-thon” for Meals on Wheels, which fights to eliminate senior hunger and isolation issues in the community; and write letters to residents at Woodlands Senior Living, a Maine-based, family-owned senior care organization. The fifth-grade class, always known for its generosity and creativity in organizing benevolent service projects, will be collecting items for the Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice like towel sets, lotion, toiletries, stationery sets, and blank cards. The items will be picked up by a doctor from the organization during Catholic Schools Week. Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice is an organization about living, dedicated to enhancing quality of life by providing innovative and compassionate medical care for all. Hand-painted mugs, made by the students in recent months, will be delivered to local public servants and first responders in a show of gratitude for their tireless efforts during the pandemic response.  Plenty of special activities are planned for the week including a winter carnival, “minute to win it” games, theme dress days, trivia competition, and a school-wide Mass that will be live-streamed throughout both campuses.

St. Brigid School, Portland

The fun will begin at St. Brigid School on Friday, January 30, with a door decorating competition. On Monday, February 1, a week of “dress up days” will begin with the class with the highest percentage of participation receiving a special prize. The clothing themes for the week are school colors of blue, green, and gold (Monday), patriotic colors (Tuesday), 90’s day to celebrate the 90th day of school (Wednesday), favorite character (Thursday), and school spirit day (Friday). In addition, students will work on individual projects celebrating St. Brigid on her feast day on February 1, when a penny collection competition will begin with the total to be donated to the Matthew 25 program of Catholic Charities Maine. Matthew 25 Awards, presented by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry program, are given to parishes to assist them in expanding their capacity to serve more people or to develop a new social ministry. The ministries receiving the awards must be directly serving vulnerable people in need, regardless of faith affiliation, and adhering to the principles of the Bible verse Matthew: 25 (“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”). Each grade will also collect goods and assemble kits for maineneeds.org. The organization strives to help individuals and families in Maine meet their basic, material needs by providing donated clothing, hygiene products, household items, and other necessities. The organization focuses its work on those starting life over from scratch: domestic abuse survivors, asylum seekers and those facing financial hardships. Maineneeds.org partners with schools, caseworkers, nurses and nonprofits to provide these material resources. The students will also make cards and write letters for veterans, priests and women religious, and local, state, and national politicians. Plenty of fun is on the way with a hot chocolate party, school-wide Bingo, a patriotic Popsicle event, a teacher appreciation breakfast, class competitions, a movie day, and much more.

Pictures and stories from Maine Catholic Schools Week can be found next week on the diocesan social media platforms on Facebook (www.facebook.com/PortlandDiocese), Twitter (www.twitter.com/PortlandDiocese), and Instagram (www.instagram.com/PortlandDioceseME).