ORLANDO | Amidst heavy rain and high temperatures, the leisure days of summer break came to a close Aug. 14, for students in nine counties throughout the Diocese of Orlando. 42 schools re-opened for the new school year. Priests and religious sisters chatted with parents, principals greeted students, and teachers were ready – rooms decorated to incite a desire to learn and engage.
This year, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in St. Cloud has a new “Share Table” located in the lunchroom. The hope is that students will place their extra, unopened snacks or fruit on the table for others who may need it. Principal Nick Pavgouzas said, “The share table is an incredible idea that has been carried out by our kitchen manager and a few others who helped with the execution of it!
“In our Mission Statement we highlight that Crusaders should demonstrate respect, reverence and responsibility at all times. To best embody that during lunch, the “Share Table” engages students to respect their parents, teachers and kitchen by not throwing away food that others worked hard to prepare for them. It also asks students to maintain a reverence for Christ and answer the calling to share and sacrifice what they have in excess to benefit others who may not have as much.”
At St. John Vianney, parish priests, Parochial Administrator Father Carlos Cabán and Father Derek Saldanha served coffee to parents as they dropped off their children. Father Cabán said, “In serving the families on the first day of school, I witnessed joy in the faces of the community. We prayed that God continues to bless St. John Vianney Catholic School and parish over the next year. My heart is filled with hope, to see the environment of love in the community, staff, teachers, students and parents embracing their faith and the importance of a Catholic education.”
Tina Shannon, parish catechetical director, feels it is important for the priests to be there on the first day of school. “We want to communicate that the parish and school are not individual entities,” she said. “We are one, not two communities with one address.”
On the East Coast, Sacred Heart Catholic School in New Smyrna Beach looks forward to upcoming STREAM accreditation, a new running club, and especially, their service project. Each year students find a way to serve their local community. This year Sacred Heart will provide 41 filtration systems for our sister Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana.
Please join us in praying for our students, teachers, principals, staff members, and parents, as they begin this new academic year. May they grow closer to Christ and be messengers of love and faith!
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic August 15, 2019