Catholic schools across the country launched Catholic Schools Week on Sunday, but as with all things, this year is different, with pandemic restrictions forcing more virtual open houses and more online resources.

Yet that’s just the point, says one veteran Catholic administrator.

Bishop McNamara President Terry Granger

At the Bishop McNamara Catholic School system — serving students from preschool through high school in the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region — its president, Terry Granger, says the pandemic gives even more reasons to celebrate Catholic schools.

Associate Deacon Mike Underwood blesses preschoolers at St. Viator School in Las Vegas.

“Even amongst the many challenges we face due to the pandemic, Bishop McNamara School students were in school, receiving face-to-face instruction 88% of the school days in the first half of the year,” Mr. Granger said in a statement to the school community. “This is due largely in part to the extraordinary dedication of our school families, pastors, administrators, and faculty and staff.

“Following their tremendous efforts, the Bishop McNamara community embarked upon this year with an inspiring commitment to Catholic education,” he added, “giving our students an unparalleled experience of academic excellence and formation in the Catholic faith.”

Students at Cristo Rey St. Viator in Las Vegas celebrate their first all-school Mass in their new gym.

All of the schools where Viatorians serve — Bishop Gorman High School, Cristo Rey St. Viator and St. Viator Catholic School, all in Las Vegas, as well as Cristo Rey St. Martin, Saint Viator High School and St. Viator Parish School in Chicago — experienced similar success in providing in-person learning, thanks to a deep commitment by faculty and staff, and school families.

Administrators at these schools readily embraced this year’s theme: “Catholic Schools: Faith, Excellence, Service.”

Saint Viator High School drew a large number of transfer students this year.

Eighth graders at St. Viator Parish in Chicago pause before sitting for the Catholic high school entrance exam.

“Academic excellence is the hallmark of a Catholic education intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person – mind, body and spirit,” says Mrs. Tracy Brunelle, Principal of St. Viator Catholic School in Las Vegas. “And service is fundamental to Catholic education and the core of Catholic discipleship.”

Just this weekend, students, staff and friends of Cristo Rey St. Martin combined to provide a drive-by food bank. Partnering with the Northern Illinois Food Bank, the event served more than 1,000 families.

“A big part of our school is that we are a faith community, committed to justice,” said President Preston Kendall.

Bottom line, celebrating Catholic Schools’ Week underscores the fundamental educational mission of the Viatorian Community, of accompanying young people in their faith development.