By Bob Graves
Co-Principal, Holy Spirit School
Throughout the school year, we often share with various parent groups, potential parents, and the parish community a great deal about the academic program of the school. Rarely, however, do we share about our most important purpose as a school – growing and living our Catholic Faith.
There is a moment in our weekly Mass at Holy Spirit School that never fails to move and inspire me. Minutes before the liturgy begins and without any visible prompting or direction, the voices of more than 500 students grow slowly silent and the usual fidgeting seems to still. The brief and unprovoked silence is as if we all know that God is present and deserves our undivided attention. This feeling is then magnified a hundred-fold when the voices of all the students and adults join in the opening song of the liturgy. For one brief moment, all voices and hearts seem united in recognizing the wonders of God among us.
However, just as God is present in the lives of our students during our weekly Mass, so, too, is He present throughout our daily school lives. As a Catholic school, God and growing our faith in Him is at the center of all that we do. From prayer to Bible readings, Church history to service projects, our faith is constantly renewed and refreshed throughout our daily school routines.
First and foremost, prayer is the single most important aspect of living our faith. Each day begins with prayer at our All School Assembly, followed by readings from the Gospel and a pause for reflection on that day’s Scripture. Teachers frequently add classroom prayer to the beginning and ending of their class day or week, and all classes pause for prayer before lunch. As a defining moment for our community, each day at exactly 11:20 a.m., a campus-wide bell rings to remind all classes to pause for the Peace Bell Prayer. Though brief, it is a moment of welcome centeredness for all of us to channel our thoughts back to God.
As a team, the faculty and staff also find themselves frequently centered in prayer. Each week, we begin Monday mornings at 7:40 a.m. in the Library in prayer for each other and the week ahead. In addition, throughout the week, at staff meetings, parent meetings, school events, and other gatherings we are always brought to order through an opening prayer or blessing.
Throughout the school’s curriculum, Holy Spirit School students have the opportunity to discover more about their faith. From learning the basics in the earliest grades through songs, projects, and lessons, God is made real to our students. Older students begin to dive more deeply into the meanings and implications of their faith in their daily lives – coloring in pictures of Moses and Jesus are replaced with instruction in Church history and involvement in public performances such as the Advent Program.
Catechism classes with the parish are also a key component of learning about our faith. From the concentration in second grade on preparations for First Communion to the two-year program for Confirmation in seventh and eighth grades, sacramental prep is a coordinated effort of both school and parish.
Beyond simply learning or singing about our faith and relationship with God, living out that same faith is one of the most important teachings of the Church – and of Holy Spirit School. In addition to the school’s required community service hours, students are offered service opportunities through the Village House shelter and retreat opportunities through the Church at our missions in Texas and Nicaragua. Several grades and classes organize fundraising opportunities that directly benefit areas and issues of need in the larger San Jose community. Finally, numerous students also contribute individually through being altar servers, youth leaders and volunteers in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.
Of course, there is much more to the daily instruction and growth of our students’ faith. Unscripted moments of prayer, the celebration of additional Church feasts, and the simple joys of participating in the serving of others and their needs, to name just a few, all add to the most well-rounded of spiritual educations. At Holy Spirit School, students participate in a rich and varied academic life, while at the same time they are provided the strongest of underpinnings for their faith and relationship with God.
Whenever I think about the faith and growth of our students, I am reminded of one of my favorite hymns at our weekly Mass, “Taste and See.” While it sounds wonderful sung by any and all ages, nothing can compare to the more than 500 children’s voices singing, “Taste and see the goodness of God…” At Holy Spirit School, we “taste and see the goodness of God” each and every day. The foundations of our Catholic faith permeate everything we do and are practiced, taught, and lived throughout our school day and beyond.
At Holy Spirit School, education does indeed change lives, but it is our faith that transforms us.