PORTSMOUTH — National Catholic Schools Week is an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States.
During the last week in January, Catholic schools across the nation celebrate faith, knowledge and service and the contributions Catholic education provides for our youth, our church, our communities and our nation.
This year, students at Saint Patrick School enjoyed a Catholic Schools Week full of exciting activities including, wacky sock and hat day, an ice cream social and a talent show.
At weekend Masses they greeted Corpus Christi Parishioners and provided tours to prospective families at a school open house.
In exchange for a non-uniform day, students collected canned soup and toiletry items for Saint Vincent de Paul Society Community Assistance Center in Exeter.
Catholic Schools Week concluded with art and essay contests. This year's essay question: What Makes Catholic Education Special? The top four essay winners were all fourth-grade girls.
In her essay, first place winner, Lily Sheppard, described several new additions to 145-year-old St. Pat's: smart boards, a computer lab, art room, lunch tables and lockers.
She then added, "Those things are awesome, but the most important part of our school is God. God has always been there and he'll be there forever. I know this because I see him all around the school every day."
Lily also described a weekly school event called Middle Meeting.
"Middle Meetings are where we all sit down and a teacher reads us a Gospel story. It is important because we learn a lot about Jesus and what he did his whole lifetime. He would have liked our school because we have lots of pictures of his family and we try to be like him.
"Saint Pat's is a small school so everyone knows everyone. We have a buddies program. You get a buddy when you are in pre-k, and when you are in fourth grade, you get to be a big buddy to pre-k kids. We do a lot of activities with them and try to help them learn about St. Pat's. The teachers are really nice. They don't want you to talk when they are talking because that's not something we do at this school. We try to respect each other and listen to what everyone has to say."
Second-place winner Mia Clarizio opened her essay with, "Saint Patrick School rocks!"
She said her teachers are " … smart and patient. They give you lots of hugs and make sure you never stop learning. The students at St. Pat's are caring, kind and friendly."
Mia said that beginning in fourth grade, "you can play different sports. Our awesome coaches are teaching us the rules of the game and to work as a team."
She ended her essay by saying, "Best of all, you learn about the adventures of Jesus. If you're smart you'll follow him and be like him. Thank God for Saint Patrick School!"
Third-place winner Annie McFarland talked about being new to Catholic school.
She said, "And now school isn't something boring I have to do everyday. It has become something fun. Which is cool because I am always hearing kids being like, 'I don't want to go to school. It's boring.' I used to be one of those kids and now I feel like it's my choice but it's really not."
Annie ended her essay by reflecting upon what St. Pat's means to her, "It means God. We are all children of God, which means we were sent here to do our job on Earth and that's what all my friends and I are here to do."
Honorable mention went to Brooke Henderson, who wrote, "Catholic schools teach us to look (each) person in the eye, make them feel like there's someone listening. You are listening! It also teaches us to spread the good news about God. We also learn about confession and forgiveness. We learn to forgive people and not hold a grudge. One time we learned that when someone says something mean, you don't have to say something mean back, just think, I'll pray for you."
For more information, visit www.stpatsweb.com or call 436.0739.