134 years of Catholic education

Archdiocesan spelling contest to be held during Catholic Schools Week

In a year that’s all about faith, excellence, and service, Catholic school students have found ways to embody the theme for the 134th year of Catholic education in The Bahamas and Catholic Schools Week (CSW), an annual celebration during which Catholic schools in The Bahamas engage in specific, planned activities which focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the church, communities and the nation.

Events planned for CSW focus on student volunteerism in communities in which their schools are located, welcoming alumni to reconnect to atalent shows and other activities which demonstrate the values and faith students gain through Catholic education.

Aquinas College students are expected to deliver care packages to St. Martin’s Convent and the Nazareth Centre.

St. Francis de Sales School students will engage in a cleanup of the church on Abaco, and planting trees to help the environment.

Some students at Xavier’s Lower School will host a community service effort with some classes offering their service through a beach cleanup initiative in the community during the week which began yesterday and continues through Saturday, February 4.

Students, administrators, alumni and friends of Catholic schools in The Bahamas were encouraged to display their Catholic school pride by wearing their school’s uniforms and colors in churches throughout the country on Sunday, the day to celebrate parishes.

Claudette Rolle, director of Catholic Education, said observing CSW is important as it is a time for them to recognize and celebrate what it means to be a Catholic school, and what it means to be a student and product of a Catholic school.

“Catholic schools throughout the world share a focus ‘on the quality of their education and the common good,’” Rolle said in quoting Pope Francis.

“When speaking to members of an educational foundation conference in 2018, Pope Francis said, ‘Catholic education gives soul to our globalized world and radiates the promise of Christian salvation.’ He stressed the importance of Catholic educators ‘giving a soul to the global world through an intellectual and moral formation that can support the good things that globalization brings and correct the harmful ones.’ And this is the Catholic school difference. Catholic schools do not solely focus on educating students for academic success or towards personal gains but to provide each child an opportunity to reach their full potential and to become good citizens.”

Rolle said CSW also gives them an opportunity to step back and recognize the dedication, love, and sacrifice of people who contribute to the success of their schools.

Bahamas Catholic schools are the second largest education system in The Bahamas and the largest and oldest private education system in The Bahamas.

The Bahamas Catholic family of schools include St. Augustine’s College (SAC), Aquinas College; Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy; St. Francis de Sales School; St. Cecilia’s School; Sts. Francis & Joseph School; St. Thomas More School; Xavier’s Lower School and Every Child Counts.

Each day of CSW is themed and includes celebrating community, today; celebrating students on Tuesday; celebrating the nation on Wednesday; celebrating vocations on Thursday; celebrating faculty, staff and volunteers on Friday; and celebrating families on Saturday.

Catholic Schools will also host their 56th Archdiocesan Spelling Bee on Thursday, February 2, during CSW, at Xavier’s Lower School, Seton Hall, West Bay Street at 12:30 p.m.

The Catholic Schools Spelling Bee is the oldest formal spelling bee in The Bahamas. It is aimed at encouraging academic excellence and a healthy competitive spirit among Catholic primary schools.

The Archdiocesan Spelling Competition was established as a way to centralize the Bahamian Catholic school system. In 1965, there were 18 schools scattered throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and each functioned independently. At that time, the Bahamas Catholic Board of Education did not yet exist.

The first superintendent of Catholic Schools, Brother John Darby, led efforts to establish a governing body that would oversee the operation of Catholic education in The Bahamas, resulting in the Board. The efforts included encouraging stakeholders to develop programs that would bring the Catholic school communities together to interact, share and learn. One of the most enduring and impactful of the initiatives was the Catholic Schools Spelling Contest.

The origin of the contest – the highlight of the Catholic school calendar – is rooted in the area locally known as “The Valley” where oral history said Myrtle Gaynor, a teacher at St. Thomas More School, learned of Darby’s wish to create opportunities for Catholic schools to come together. It was Gaynor who suggested to Darby that a spelling competition would create an excellent platform for Catholic schools to coalesce and promote a spirit of unity among the schools. As a result, in January 1967, the inaugural Catholic Schools Spelling Contest was held.

Although all Catholic primary schools did not participate in the initial competition, it was the impetus for many years of healthy, spirited competition.

For 134 years, Catholic schools in The Bahamas have provided an education to families of diverse backgrounds.

The first CSW was celebrated in The Bahamas in 2009.

The week has been celebrated for the past 49 years in the United States. The National Catholic Educational Association, the largest, private professional education association in the world, has set as its theme for the 2023 CSW “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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