OLEAN, NYJanuary and February can be cold and gloomy in Western New York. But that last Sunday of January always heralds a bright spot for students, faculty and staff at Southern Tier Catholic School and Archbishop Walsh Academy.

It is the beginning of a nationwide observance known as Catholic Schools Week. And on the campus that both schools share, 170 students in the K-8 and high schools will be spending Feb. 1 through 5 celebrating their Catholic education with a slate of activities that includes two special Masses, a Safe Teen Coalition Assembly, and a themed dress- down day for which they will need to don silly hats and socks.

Mary Lou Plesac, director of spiritual life for both schools, takes charge of planning activities for the yearly observance. “Setting aside a week each year to celebrate our schools I think is important,” Plesac said. “It gives us a chance to highlight the importance of having Catholic schools as a choice in this country and community, and it gives us the opportunity to change up our normal schedule, adding some fun and special spiritual activities for students and staff.”

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Thomas Manko, president and principal at Archbishop Walsh and Principal, noted, “Archbishop Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic enjoy a unique position of being the only Catholic schools in the greater Olean area.”

He added that the schools “emphasize Catholic virtues and Christian community as a living experience,” teaching “each student to learn, love learning and be a LIGHT.”

“LIGHT” is an acronym for the values students at both schools are encouraged to live by. And Manko defined those values as:

  • Live a life of faith
  • Impact the world through service, responsible citizenship and social justice
  • Grow continuously and strive for excellence
  • Honor each person’s unique giftedness and
  • Treat all people with love, kindness and respect.

Nancy Crawford, a fourth-grade teacher at Southern Tier Catholic, said she also finds importance in taking the time to show pride in the school.

“Catholic Schools offer a unique opportunity for every student to be exposed to the Gospel values of Jesus,” she said. “Catholic school students then are empowered to truly know, love and serve the person of Jesus and to spread that knowledge and love to the community.”

Crawford added, “I tell my students that being a part of a Catholic school will provide a foundation for them that will last a lifetime, making them an asset to society, the Church and the world.”

In addition to the on-campus activities planned for Catholic Schools Week, the fifth- and sixth- graders at STCS have the opportunity to spend a day in Buffalo, visiting Kleinhans Music Hall and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. 

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