Catholic Schools week drives passion
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
PLAINVILLE -- They have been celebrating Catholic Schools Week together for nearly 40 years.
But Carol Parker and June Mongeau say it never gets old.
"I think it's building memories," said Parker, in her 25th year as principal of Sacred Heart Grade School in Plainville. "We'll have (graduates) come back and say they remember this or that about Catholic Schools Week. (That week) seems to really stick out in their minds."
Parker has worked off and on the past 40 years with Mongeau, who has taught either second- or third-grade at Sacred Heart since 1974, the same year Catholic Schools Week began as a joint project of the National Catholic Educational Association and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
That was two years after Parker began teaching at Sacred Heart. She took a year off here and there when her children were young, came back for good in 1981, then took over as principal in 1989.
"This is where I feel God has brought me and wanted me to be all these years," Parker said.
And there she was Monday morning, walking around the school gym with a smile on her face watching over her students.
Following an all-school Mass on Sunday at Sacred Heart Church, students in preschool through sixth grade gathered in the school gym early Monday morning to kick off the week of activities.
After using teamwork to fit together puzzle pieces that spelled out large SHGS letters that will hang on the front of the stage all week, students in preschool through sixth grade listened attentively as Karla Ruder explained the upcoming activity -- making placemats for seniors in Plainville.
"Service is anything you can do to make somebody's day better," said Ruder, chairwoman of the CSW committee at Sacred Heart.
She then turned the youngsters loose to make the place mats that will be laminated and given to seniors in town.
Some students used felt-tipped markers to create their piece of artwork. Others used colored pencils. Others drew their pictures with crayons.
Jo Beaton, a substitute for the first-grade class this week, told her group, "You can make any picture that will make somebody happy."
There were flowers and rainbows, people and animals, all with bright colors and all sorts of different messages.
While second-grader Brylee Horton worked carefully at one table, drawing a heart with "God" written above it and SHGS below it, preschooler Emma Gabel drew family members on her paper at the end of another table.
In addition to participating in various activities during the week, students get to dress differently each day. Monday was crazy outfit day, and pink seemed to trigger the spirit in fourth-grader Ben Hansen, who was dressed in a pink shirt, pink tie, pink shorts and over-the-calf pink socks.
Just before heading back to their classrooms, Hansen let out a yelp when a schoolmate measured his height on a chart hanging toward the back of the gym.
"Four feet, six (inches)," Hansen said when asked how tall he was, adding "I think."
Another measurement showed on this day, with his hair spiked high to match his flashy outfit, Hansen actually measured 4 feet, 9 inches.
He flashed a huge grin as he headed across the gym toward the hallway leading to his classroom.
Down the hallway, Mongeau was upbeat, too, as she began her second-grade class on the first day of a jam-packed week for yet another Catholic Schools Week.
"There are different benefits to teaching here rather than monetary," Mongeau said. "I've always liked the family aspect of it, the religious aspect of it. I've never wanted to be anywhere else."