SCRANTON – For the last 47 years, Catholic schools across the country have participated in Catholic Schools Week and this year will be no exception.

Traditionally held the last week of January, this year’s celebration will take place from Jan. 31 – Feb. 6, 2021. Each of the Diocese of Scranton’s 19 Catholic Schools are busy preparing numerous activities in which students can participate.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, principals and staff members are adjusting some popular annual activities to make sure safety remains paramount.

“While faced with unprecedented challenges, our Catholic schools have been at the forefront of providing an excellent, in-person, education. We have been nimble and innovative and never forgotten why we are called to this work – to serve children and families,” Jason Morrison, Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer, said. “Because of our health and safety protocols, Catholic Schools Week will look different. However, our schools will use new technologies and platforms to bring to life the Catholic School difference.”

Each year, the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) chooses a theme to highlight an aspect of Catholic schools. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” calls attention to the purpose of Catholic schools – to form disciples, to grow the whole person and encourage students to be witnesses to Catholic social teaching.

“Catholic Schools Week sets aside time to reflect on the truly remarkable and amazing schools we have and, in a fun way, celebrate them,” Superintendent of Schools Kristen Donohue added. “Although the pandemic requires some changes to the activities planned for the week to be conducted virtually, we will in a genuine and creative way, share our gratitude for our schools while also sharing good health.”

In addition to holding fun events for students, numerous Diocesan schools are planning events that will show their students’ kindness and generosity to others. A central aspect of Catholic education is learning the importance of service to others.

Some of the activities currently being planned include Saint Mary of Mount Carmel School in Dunmore holding a collection for the Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen, while All Saints Academy in Scranton will collect canned food items.

Catholic school students at Saint Agnes School in Towanda and Epiphany School in Sayre will make Valentine’s Day cards for residents of personal care and nursing homes.

Many other Diocesan schools are planning similar events.

“Our school’s motto this year is ‘See the face of God in all you meet; be kind, loving, compassionate, and respectful,’ so for every one fun activity we have scheduled, we are also doing one service project,” Kelly Wilhelm, principal of Saint Agnes School in Towanda, said. “Our Pre-Kindergarten teacher has done projects for a personal care home that is located very close to the school and they have always been so appreciative. When we talked about projects that the whole school could do, we decided that valentines would be perfect. The children will make at least one during their class time and for those that finish faster, maybe one or two more, so we know that every resident will receive a special gift from a Saint Agnes student. Each valentine will be as unique as the student who make it.”

Catholic schools offer academic excellence and a faith-filled education for students nationwide. National test scores, high school graduation rates, college attendance and other data show that Catholic schools frequently outperform schools in both the public and private sectors.

National statistics show that 99-percent of Catholic school students graduate from high school. The percentage of high school graduates who attend a four-year college is 85-percent, compared to 44-percent of public school students.

Catholic schools also save taxpayers money. Based on the average public school per pupil cost of $12,756, Catholic schools provide $22 billion in savings each year for the nation.