Colleen Moten is all set to do whatever needs to be done to help make Catholic Schools Week 2020 a success in Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly.

More than 40 students are in the school choir which provided the music for the Mass with Bishop O’Connell.

“I’ll be here as much as I can,” the mother of sixth-grader, Morgan Moten said as she cited a few of the numerous activities that are planned for the week – a Knowledge Bowl, an ice cream social, a student council bake sale and a spelling bee.

But the most meaningful highlight of the busy week, Moten noted, was having Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrate Mass for the school community Jan. 28.

PHOTO GALLERY: Bishop O’Connell’s Catholic Schools Week visit to Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly. 

“This is actually the first time I’ve seen the Bishop,” she said, adding that it was likely a first for many of the students as well. “It’s an honor to have him here.”

Sacred Heart School was the second stop on Bishop O’Connell’s Catholic Schools Week schedule. He visited St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, the day before, and he will end the week Jan. 31 with a visit to St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square.

Bishop O’Connell greets the congregation after the Jan. 28 Mass.

The Mass in Sacred Heart Church was punctuated with the presence of Father John Czahur, parish pastor, who concelebrated the Mass, and active participation by the students who served as readers, altar servers, gift bearers and the more than 40 in the school choir, who shared their vocal talents and lead the congregation in song. Many of the adults in attendance were visibly moved to hear the children sing “Heart of Jesus,” a traditional hymn that has been adopted as the school’s song.

Following the reception of Holy Communion, Kathryn Besheer, principal, extended appreciation to the Bishop for his visit, saying that he “couldn’t have picked a better year to be with us for Catholic Schools Week.

“This is our 75th anniversary, and I look forward to 75 plus 75 more,” Besheer said, going on to tell about her own Catholic education journey, which began when she was a student in The Catholic University of America, Washington. The university’s president at the time was then-Father David M. O’Connell, C.M.

“My time at The Catholic University of America was a true experience of an authentic Catholic education,” Besheer said, noting that while she was raised in a Catholic home, it was at CUA, “through study and practice, that my faith became my own. It was the greatest gift. And when I think of my students [here at Sacred Heart], these beautiful children before us, I want so deeply for them to have that same experience.”

Following the Mass, Paula Asch, mother of seventh-grader Emilie Asch and the school librarian, smiled when she spoke of Catholic Schools Week being a “hectic week but a joyful one.

“We are celebrating what we are, what we offer to kids and what we do well,” said Asch, who shared that while her family is not Catholic, the support for Catholic education is important.

Her husband attended Catholic schools in the past and the couple wants their daughter to receive an education in a Christian atmosphere where prayers are said and, holidays are celebrated.

“I’m pleased with the way Emilie’s classmates and teachers treat one another with respect,” she said.

While sixth-grader Amanda Romano reflected on Bishop O’Connell’s visit to her school, saying, “It definitely made me feel important and kind of special. It’s not something you have every day,” seventh-grader, Julia Kopcho focused on how Catholic Schools Week “means getting to know our faith is meaningful to people.

“It’s meaningful to people who practice it and that God is with us everywhere we go. I enjoy learning about God more because he already knows a lot about us, but we don’t know a lot about him!” she said, then of  her school added, “Sacred Heart is a very quiet community, but it is helpful to many people in many different ways. The people around you are caring and wanting to know more about you. The staff is very kind and wanting to teach you more than you already know.”

Having just joined the faculty in September after having retired from the public school system, fourth-grade teacher Kim Ivins was excited to experience Catholic Schools Week for the first time.

“I love it, and that’s because of our faith and where we can talk about God,” said Ivins, a member of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington.

Having graduated from the former Holy Assumption School, Roebling, and Holy Cross High School, Ivins said she believes her Catholic education experience has come full circle.“Being here has enabled me to come back to a school setting in which I was raised and I feel has definitely made my faith stronger.”

Moten and her father, Tom Morgan, said Catholic education has been an integral staple in multiple generations of their family’s life. Morgan said he wanted Catholic values for his own two daughters, who attended the former Corpus Christi School, Willingboro, and Holy Cross High School (now Preparatory Academy), Delran, as well as his granddaughter, who attends  Sacred Heart School.

“Students receive a sense of value,” Morgan said. “Here they learn how to be good to one another, respect one another. They are in a healthy and safe environment that fosters the development of the good in children and all things that life has to offer.”  

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor