Faith formation is at the center of all that we do at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School. From the moment the children enter school to the moment the last child leaves – we call upon God’s Holy Spirit to be present in all that we do and say.
For every child and every adult in our learning community, prayer is a daily part of our lives together. We pray with our voices as the day begins and ends, as we sit down to meals together, as we experience life’s glories and life’s tragedies. One of the highlights for the students at all grade levels is to get to lead morning prayer over the PA from the principal’s office. Monthly we gather in the gym or outside for student-led prayer, the Pet Blessing is an especially popular all-school prayer experience. Every Friday, the Kindergartners through eighth graders gather for Mass, challenged by the homily, excited by the music and inspired and fed at Communion. We pray just as fervently with our generous hearts and active bodies as we participate in service projects. We collect empty but reusable containers for the Missionary Sisters of Charity so that the homeless who visit their soup kitchen will be able to take leftovers with them. Bi-annually we help to restock our parish’s very busy St. Vincent De Paul pantry with food and hygiene items. From our 4 year olds to our 14 year olds, the children grow to understand that prayer doesn’t always need words.
Religion class is a daily part of each student’s learning experience at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish School. Scripture, Catholic Tradition, the saints and other holy people, the sacraments and sacramentals, social justice and charity are all central to the religious education curricula. Of course, our favorite saint is St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Did you know that each day before she and her children sat down to breakfast, they fed breakfast to the poor? Our students know. Did you know that Margaret like so many today was an immigrant and refugee? Our children know that and much more. Just ask, they love to talk about St. Margaret.
Sacramental preparation is the highlight of second grade. In the first half of the school year they learn about the sacrament of Reconciliation. They talk frequently of making good choices, choices that take the other into consideration. They also learn of God’s unending forgiveness. It is with excitement that our second graders approach the sacrament of Reconciliation on the first Sunday of Advent. They want to hear the priest tell them that they are forgiven, at a very spiritual level they understand the sacrament’s power to re-form a person’s life. And then, they begin to learn about the Eucharist and Jesus’ real presence in the bread and wine at Mass. As spring approaches, the excitement and yearning grows until it becomes contagious. Our third graders remember with clarity their own First Communion. The second graders’ big buddies, our sixth graders, are equally excited and renewed in their own experience of Communion. One of our favorite Friday Masses is the Mass after First Communion when the second graders join the rest of us at the Communion table.
Every other year, our seventh and eighth graders are asked to reflect and pray in discernment as they decide whether or not to participate in the sacrament of Confirmation. It is time for them of deepening faith, a time for choosing what their parents chose in Baptism. They take this sacrament very seriously, understanding that with Confirmation comes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but also the responsibility to answer God’s call to be young men and women who strive to do God’s will. Like First Communion, the sacrament of Confirmation is inspiring to the whole learning community. The younger students look up to the seventh and eighth graders and begin to look forward to the day when they, too, will receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
But what does this all mean for the 30% of our students who are not Catholic? In prayer we are one as we give ourselves to God. As students pray together and lead prayer for one another the question is never asked “are you Catholic?” because it does not matter. However, our Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus in Communion differs from most of our protestant brothers and sisters, the non-Catholic children are not included in receiving Communion. They are invited to walk in the Communion line time to receive a blessing. It is always inspiring to watch as even our oldest students approach the Communion ministers for a blessing. The non-Catholic children and their parents value this faith-filled learning environment, it is a blessing to us all – Catholic and non-Catholic, alike.