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Our Catholic Identity
“From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illuminated by the light of faith and having its own unique characteristics. The Council summed this up by speaking of an environment permeated with the Gospel spirit of love and freedom.”
-The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, Congregation for Catholic Education, Rome, 1988
1. MISSION AND PHILOSOPHY:
The school has a mission statement and a philosophy statement which indicate the integration of the Roman Catholic faith into all aspects of school life.
The mission statement is clear in identifying our school’s relationship to the larger St. Clare parish by specifically stating that St. Clare is a “parish-school community.” Service projects throughout the school often involve the parish community, such as our first grade’s monthly food drive in which canned food is specifically donated to the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and the middle school’s involvement with the parish’s “Giving Tree” during Advent. School news and events are included in the parish’s weekly bulletin and, likewise, the school publishes parish happenings in our weekly school newsletter The Dragon Post. We also work closely with the parish’s Director of Children’s Ministry to plan our school Masses and to support sacramental preparation. Parishioners are invited to all school Masses and to school events including our annual bingo night and the auction. Our students participate in the parish’s children’s choir and as altar servers, and our school families volunteer for many parish activities.
Our mission statement and philosophy are included in all relevant school documents, such as the student-parent handbook, registration materials, The Dragon Post, classroom newsletters, staff bulletins, school letterhead, and our school website. Our mission statement and philosophy have also been professionally printed and thoughtfully displayed in the school office, all homeroom classrooms, and corridors throughout the school and parish office. The School Advisory Committee (SAC) members recite our mission statement at each of their monthly meetings.
The principal and staff address the school’s mission statement and philosophy when meeting with prospective families. This occurs when families inquire about becoming enrolled in our school. Yearly, we ask all enrolled families to renew their commitment to St. Clare School by reading, discussing, agreeing to, and upholding all of our rules, policies, and procedures written in our student-parent handbook. This information is derived from our belief in our mission statement and philosophy. Administration and staff hiring committees make sure to discuss our mission statement and philosophy when meeting with prospective employees, as well.
At St. Clare School, our School Advisory Council recommends policy based upon the mission statement and philosophy. Our strategic plan and school improvement plan are also based upon and often quote from the mission statement and philosophy.
Student Council officers include the mission statement in their announcements to the students. Because of this, along with all other reminders of our mission, our students are able to paraphrase the mission statement. Most can quote it exactly.
2. PRAYER AND SACRAMENTS:
The school provides regular opportunities for the school community to experience prayer and the Sacraments.
At St. Clare School, all students attend Mass every Thursday morning with the faculty and staff. Each grade, from first through eighth, has an opportunity to plan three to four Masses each year, taking the leadership role in reading and singing. Three kindergarten students present the gifts at each Mass on a rotating schedule so that each student has four or five opportunities each year. Students also celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation twice each year, once during Advent and once during Lent.
Every classroom has a prayer corner, or other prayer space, that includes statues and other sacramentals. Each classroom also contains a crucifix, religious statues, and pictures of religious images. Teachers pray with their students at least three times a day: when school begins, before lunch, at the end of the day, and at other times throughout the day when appropriate. Students memorize many formal prayers, with the help of their parents, and pray spontaneously, as well. Students have an opportunity to offer their special intentions during prayer with their classmates. Every assembly begins with prayer, as do all staff meetings and parent council meetings. The faculty and staff begin each day with communal prayer. Every staff person takes a turn at planning and leading these prayer experiences.
Students have opportunities to experience traditional forms of prayer, such as the Stations of the Cross, the recitation of the Rosary, and segments of the Liturgy of the Hours. These experiences may include the entire student body or a single class. Other special prayer experiences include the Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis and May Crowning. Since the Feast of St. Clare occurs during the summer, we celebrate our patroness in early September, near the anniversary of the founding of our school.
Special attention is paid to the liturgical year through formal instruction, the daily readings, and the pastor’s homilies. Students are encouraged to attend Mass with their families on weekends and Holy Days. Many of our students participate in the parish’s children’s choir and youth Masses. They also participate as altar servers for both school Masses and parish Masses.
The school uses a Religion curriculum and instruction that is faithful to Roman Catholic Church teachings and meets the requirements set forth by the USCCB.
Based on our school mission, philosophy, and schoolwide learning expectations, our curriculum is rooted in Gospel values and guides students to live as faith-filled individuals. All teachers include Catholic Identity integration in their written curriculum units. For example, the sixth grade social studies investigation of Ancient Egypt includes the study of Exodus and the development of Christianity is linked to the study of Ancient Rome. In the primary grades, science topics and religion are often connected. In the intermediate and middle school grades, literature study often involves study of Catholic Social Teaching and Gospel values. Art and music classes connect to religion topics of justice and respect for the human person.
Reference to relevant Church documents is made throughout the curriculum, especially in the upper grades. In addition to the New American Bible and approved documents on Catholic Social Teaching, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website offers a wealth of information in support of Catholic Identity integration. Our teachers also access the Catholic Identity Curriculum Integration website for assistance as they plan their curriculum units.
Our religion textbooks are in compliance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and are approved for use within the diocese by the Archdiocese of Portland. We currently use the Blest Are We religion series published by RCL Benziger. All grades use Gospel Weekly magazines (Pflaum) to supplement the textbook. All grades use the Archdiocese-mandated Second Step, Steps to Respect, and Called to Protect for Youth programs to teach concepts and skills related to conflict resolution, anti-bullying, and personal safety.
At St. Clare Parish, children receive sacramental preparation according to the guidelines of the Archdiocese of Portland. Preparation programs for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist are led by the parish. The role of the school in sacramental preparation is to reinforce, supplement, and enrich parish programs and to respect the parents as the primary faith educators of their children.
St. Clare School follows the standards-based religion curriculum guidelines of the Archdiocese of Portland. The curriculum at each grade level emphasizes prayer, liturgy and worship, community building, the story of our faith, and outreach projects that are developmentally appropriate.
Teachers at St. Clare School understand the mission of the Church and make a special effort to reach the whole child in such a way as to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers utilize a variety of teaching methods, multiple intelligences theory, differentiated instruction, and other inclusive strategies that allow students to be active participants in their faith through a variety of experiences. Critical thinking skills are nurtured through group discussion and open-ended questioning techniques so that, as our students mature, they are able to use their internalized learning to make a positive difference in our ever-changing world.
4. CATECHIST CERTIFICATION:
The formation of teachers for catechetical instruction is ongoing.
At St. Clare School, every teacher is a teacher of Religion – not only those who provide formal instruction in Religion. Because of this, all teachers at St. Clare participate in ongoing catechist training. During the previous three years, we participated in the Echoes of Faith program. We are currently participating in the Catholicism program.
Faith-formation activities are a routine part of teacher in-service. As a staff, our faith-formation includes catechist training, retreats, and days of reflection. We have also participated in service activities, including visiting the children at the Providence Center for Medically Fragile Children and packing food at the Oregon Food Bank. At the Archdiocesan level, we have participated in all the faith-formation in-service days that have been offered. The principal also goes on an annual retreat with all principals from the Archdiocese.
The staff at St. Clare participates, as a group, in retreat days and other activities that help build a community of faith. Our retreats have been led by various diocesan priests, Holy Cross priests, and local spiritual directors. Sometimes we go off campus for these retreats and some have taken place at our school. We have also participated, as previously mentioned, in various service projects. We feel renewed and spiritually refreshed after these experiences. We also feel a close connection to each other as a result of these experiences.
The staff meetings at St. Clare always begin with prayer. At staff meetings we may discuss Religion curriculum, ways to practice Catholic values, and the faith formation of the entire community. Examples of topics we have discussed include teaching and modeling appropriate behavior and reverence at Mass, sharing and summarizing parent responses from our annual faith-formation question that is discussed at parent-teacher conferences, and plans for family group activities which typically focus on some aspect of the liturgical year or service to the community.
5. PARENTS AS PARTNERS:
The school maintains an active partnership with parents whose fundamental concern is the spiritual and academic education of their children.
Parents are clearly identified as the primary educators of their children. The St. Clare School philosophy, which is displayed throughout the school, articulates specifically that “we collaborate with parents, the primary educators of our children.” Parents are invited and welcomed to be active participants in the classrooms for projects, presentations, interviews, and special assignments. They are also invited to participate in service projects and field trips. Much of the school’s daily operation relies on parent volunteers such as the School Advisory Council, Parent Teacher Council, room parents, playground prefects, and office helpers.
The school provides several opportunities for parents to learn about their role as primary educators of their children. The learning specialist writes a weekly column in the school newsletter that provides parents with suggestions and tips and she maintains a library of parenting resources that parents may borrow at any time. The learning specialist, who is also a licensed counselor, is always available to assist parents with questions or concerns relating to parenting. On occasion, professionals are invited to speak to the parent community on relevant topics.
The administration encourages teachers to work collaboratively and discuss with parents their children’s faith and spiritual development. Formal conferences are set up twice a year for parents to meet and discuss children’s faith formation as well as academic development. Parents are welcome to meet with teachers or administration regarding the faith formation of their children whenever there is a need. Additionally, parents are always an integral part of sacramental preparation.
The Dragon Post includes a weekly article entitled “Faith Sharing Question of the Week” which is based on the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel. It includes questions to help families discuss ideas and thoughts about the Gospel and its connections to modern life. This article encourages and promotes family discussion of faith and values. Other articles relating to faith formation are included at various times throughout the year. These may include such things as announcements of Stand Out and Shine winners, congratulatory messages to students who have received sacraments for the first time, notices about upcoming trainings for altar servers, or parish faith formation events, to name a few.
Many classroom teachers include informative and helpful articles in their classroom newsletters, in their Back-to-School presentations, and at conference opportunities in order to guide and support parents in their work as the primary educators. Religion teachers often use the publisher- provided parent letters from the religion texts to inform parents of upcoming units, religion themes, prayer memorization, and scripture background. Likewise, Second Step, Steps to Respect, Talk About Touching, and Fully Alive units all incorporate parent letters that teachers frequently send home to encourage parents to work with and talk with their children about moral development and Gospel values.
Teachers report to parents their children’s successes in faith formation in a variety of ways. Religion grades on progress reports and report cards indicate children’s progress toward meeting Archdiocesan standards. Students who exemplify Gospel values are awarded Stand Out and Shine certificates by teachers and staff. Several students are recognized once a month at the Stand Out and Shine ceremony at Mass. Classroom newsletters convey students’ involvement in service outreach opportunities. For example, the first grade newsletter includes articles about their food drive, the outcome of the eighth grade annual food fast is reported in The Dragon Post and on the class web page, and reflections of fourth graders who visit Providence Center for Fragile Children are often included in the classroom newsletter and The Dragon Post.
The school helps students develop a service-oriented outreach to the Church and civic community after the example of Jesus who said, “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” (John 13:15)
At St. Clare School, we provide service to those in need because, as Catholics, we are called to do so. Giving service is an opportunity to put our faith into action. We serve others because, by doing so, we understand that we are serving Christ:
Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
At St. Clare, we plan at least three all-school projects each year, and each grade also conducts its own class projects throughout the year. As a graduation requirement, our eighth grade students complete a minimum of ten hours of service outside of the school day. Although ten is mandated, many of the eighth grade students complete upwards of three to ten times the number of hours that are required. Our students have been involved with organizations such as the National Charity League, Loaves and Fishes, and Blanchet House.
The school’s mission statement is clear in identifying our school’s relationship to the larger St. Clare parish by specifically stating that St. Clare is a “parish-school community.” Therefore, service projects throughout the school often involve the parish community, such as our first grade’s monthly food drive that benefits the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and the middle school’s involvement with the parish’s Giving Tree during Advent. Additionally, our students are encouraged to serve the parish as altar servers and as Vacation Bible School volunteers as well as provide service at events such as parish dinners and the annual rummage sale.
Our service projects are age-appropriate in both content and complexity across the grades. For example, our kindergarten students have created Busy Bags for refugee children and have done extra chores at home to earn change for the St. Vincent de Paul collection jar. The fourth grade students participate in monthly visits to Providence’s Center for Medically Fragile Children, and our eighth graders participate in a 24-hour food fast during Lent to help raise awareness of global hunger and inadequate resources throughout the world.
At St. Clare, service opportunities are an overt expression of the Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Many of our outreach activities follow the theme of Rights and Responsibilities. For example, the whole school participates in a toiletry drive for Portland’s homeless while second and seventh grade students pack food at the Oregon Food Bank to better understand the needs of the homeless and the hungry in our community. The Catholic Social Teaching theme of Call to Family, Community, and Participation is recognized through the efforts of fifth grade students who serve as pen pals with elderly residents of Mary’s Woods. St. Clare students also care for God’s creation through our paper and packaging recycling program, by composting food scraps at lunch, and through Earth Day activities.
7. SIGNS AND SACRAMENTALS:
There is widespread use of signs, sacramentals, traditions, and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the school.
Every classroom, as well as the gym, library, computer lab, and all offices, has a clearly displayed crucifix. Other religious imagery, including statues, icons, and pictures, exists in classrooms and throughout the school. Religious themes, scripture passages, and quotes attributed to saints or inspired writers are often included on bulletin boards, staff bulletins, web pages, and in our weekly newsletter.
Students participate in a variety of traditions and rituals of the Church. Some examples of these include May Crowning, Advent wreath prayer services, recitation of the Rosary, Blessing of the Animals, segments of the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Stations of the Cross. Each year, the seventh grade students create charcoal images of the Stations. These are displayed in the main hall during Holy Week, creating a prayerful space.
Students, staff, and parents are encouraged to participate in prayer, traditions, and rituals – not only at school, but with their families, as well. All parish liturgies, traditions, and rituals are announced in our weekly newsletter, encouraging our families to participate.
All school personnel are actively engaged in bringing the Good News of Jesus into the total educational experience.
At St. Clare School, all school personnel make it a priority to bring the Good News of Jesus to the total educational experience. This begins with prayer. Prayer permeates all aspects of school life. Before the school day begins, the faculty and staff meet for morning prayer. The students pray with their classmates at the beginning and at the end of the day as well as before lunch. Assemblies and family group gatherings begin with prayer. School Advisory Council and Parent Teacher Association meetings also begin with prayer. Prayer is an important part of the school culture.
Teachers bring Gospel values into their ordinary teaching experiences by relating Gospel values to literature, historical situations, scientific questions, and artistic responses to the human condition. Teachers also bring Gospel values into the everyday life of the school when dealing with conflicts between students or in disciplinary situations.
The school provides ongoing opportunities for faith formation for students, parents, and staff in many ways. All students have formal instruction in Religion, participate in service projects, and plan and actively participate in liturgies. Middle school students also participate in annual retreats. Faculty participates in faith-formation in-service activities, retreats, and service outreach activities. Parents are invited through the school newsletter to all parish faith-formation activities and to all school Masses. Parents are also invited to participate in school service projects.
Teachers demonstrate their responsibility to be attentive to their own relationship with Jesus by actively participating in faith formation opportunities provided by the school and the Archdiocese, by cultivating an active prayer life, and through their participation in school liturgies and the sacraments. Several staff members have also participated in optional book study groups relating to faith formation. Outside of school, the staff is actively engaged in nurturing their relationship with Jesus.
Teachers attempt to connect faith with life in Religion classes and relate the moral, ethical, or spiritual ramifications to other areas of study. Teachers accomplish this by encouraging students to apply Gospel values to their daily lives and to the important questions they are exploring in various content areas. Teachers also refer to Gospel values when dealing with student conduct or conflicts between and among students. Connecting faith with life begins in kindergarten in developmentally appropriate ways and becomes increasingly more sophisticated as students develop and mature.
The school encourages all parents to participate in the religious formation of their children by inviting them to school Masses, discussing a faith formation topic at parent-teacher conferences, and involving parents in Religion homework assignments and parent-child discussions at home.
Parents are invited to meet with teachers or administration regarding the faith formation of their children whenever there is a need. The Dragon Post includes a weekly article entitled “Faith Sharing Question of the Week” which is based on the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel. It includes questions to help families discuss ideas and thoughts about the Gospel and its connections to modern life. This article encourages and promotes family discussion of faith and values.
The majority of St. Clare students have been baptized before coming to the school. Occasionally, when one of our students is baptized, his/her classmates are invited to attend the baptism and a classroom celebration is planned. The baptism is announced in the school newsletter as well as in the parish bulletin.