By John Toole
---- — Leave it to Catholic Schools Week to bring together the music of Katy Perry with the message of the Gospel and help for the needy.
Across Southern New Hampshire — in Derry, Pelham and Salem — more than 500 students and their families are highlighting parochial schools in the community.
“Catholic Schools Week is a week of celebrating schools in the traditional Catholic setting and the good things that happen in our schools,” said Sam Scuderi, principal of St. Joseph Regional Catholic School in Salem.
The celebration goes beyond New Hampshire’s borders.
“It’s nationwide,” said Susan Hogan, interim principal of St. Thomas Aquinas School in Derry. “The mission is to celebrate the high quality of education and faith development of children in Catholic schools.”
The value of a Catholic education goes beyond small class sizes and rigorous academics, Scuderi said.
It also comes from trying to instill morals and virtues in pupils, he said.
“I’d say it is faith-based, number one,” she said.
Brian Clark, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Patrick’s School in Pelham, said he sees another reason, both as a teacher and parent.
“That they live the mission — respect for self and others,” Clark said.
Catholic schools were founded generations ago to educate the children of immigrant families who settled here from Canada and Europe.
The schools no longer have faculties dominated by the Sisters of Mercy, instructing students from the neighborhood. Instead, lay teachers serve a diverse, regional student body whose parents value achievement, discipline and manners.
The week is a lot of fun for students and their teachers.
Yesterday was Student Appreciation Day at St. Patrick’s School in Pelham.
Homework was banned. Students dressed in the school colors – blue, gold and white – and participated in a snowman festival.
Songs by Katy Perry, the Beatles and Selena Gomez were played.
It was Twins Day at St. Joseph’s School in Salem, where students dressed like classmates. The day before was Mixed Up Monday.
“Kids wore two different kind of shoes,” Scuderi said.
St. Thomas Aquinas marked the feast day of their patron saint on Monday and pupils heard some of their parents speak on Career Day.
“Parents came and shared details about their careers,” Hogan said.
At St. Patrick’s School, students had the chance to be “principal of the day.”
Faith figured in the week’s activities. There are Masses for students and their families.
Service is an important part of the week, too.
Clark said St. Patrick’s students were collecting food for the parish food pantry.
Hogan said St. Thomas Aquinas students were helping with a parish food drive in Derry.