In photo above, Katie Perata, far left, congratulates the six finalists from the annual Diocesan Speech Contest for seventh and eighth graders held in November 2022.
The 2022-2023 school year welcomed a return to many beloved Catholic school traditions with an amazing community of pastors, principals, teachers, students and families. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our Catholic schools in the diocese under the leadership of Bishop Jaime Soto. Our 44 Catholic schools are empowering students with the belief that —through the example and teachings of Christ — we are all capable of shaping our futures and transforming the world.
Our overarching goal this school year is focused on the Eucharistic Revival, creating and implementing timely and intentional opportunities for students and families to experience and embrace the strategic pillars of this national initiative. This mission is led by faith-filled principals and actively-involved pastors living out the Church's mission. Our teachers are strong catechists who invest in their faith formation to minister confidently to their students.
Many schools offer adoration opportunities for students and parents, host monthly Sunday family Mass, and continue participating in service projects highlighting the Catholic faith.
On the World Day of Prayer for Creation during the Season of Creation (Sept. 1 - Oct. 4), we launched our Laudato Si’ website and curriculum modules for grade levels 4, 7, and 11, immersing our students in new environmental stewardship.
Our “Education in Virtue” program supports faith formation, empowering our students to live out the virtues and share the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The unique combination of faith and academic success in our Catholic schools enables students to create a life that is both meaningful to them and a light to our suffering world.
Reconnecting across the diocese
This year we have had the joy of bringing back a few extraordinary in-person diocesan student events for our schools. In September, we hosted all of our eighth-grade students at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament to celebrate Mass with Bishop Soto -- an opportunity for students to greet old friends and meet new ones while being empowering as school leaders.
In November, we hosted the annual Diocesan Speech Contest at St. James School in Davis, where we focused on Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian Catholic teenager. Blessed Carlo, who died from leukemia in 2006 and was beatified on Oct. 10, 2020 in Assisi, was a gamer and computer programmer who loved soccer and the Eucharist. He once said, “All people are born as originals, but many die as photocopies.”
Students across our diocese were challenged to research and learn more about Blessed Carlo, speak to his life and, most importantly, focus on his quote and what it meant to them, particularly as this generation is enveloped in social media. We had 36 students participate this year, and many family members attended the event. Our students presented passionately as they shared their insights. In spring, we look forward to the return of our diocesan academic decathlon and religion competition!
Proof of progress post-pandemic
It is exciting to see our Catholic school students thriving academically post-pandemic. Our Catholic schools are safe, secure environments where children develop friendships, make discoveries, and experience success and failures. Our nurturing, family-centered atmosphere and the safe environment we provide genuinely set us apart.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card” (NAEP), released Oct. 24, 2022, Catholic schools outperformed their public school counterparts in math and reading. This achievement is indeed a testament to the work of Catholic school communities: teachers, principals, parents and students. In our diocese, we also are outperforming the public and charter schools in our regions, and are equal to or above Catholic dioceses across the country. We continue to use various data sources to inform our curriculum and support the academic needs of every student.
Our schools continue to lead as academic innovators, and our graduates are agents of change and emmisaries of justice and service. Our Catholic schools find strength in our diversity and unity in our mission and the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
John Hallissy, chair of our Sacramento elementary schools’ board, notes that “parents of Catholic school students make great sacrifices in order to provide the best education possible for their children. As we move into the post-COVID period, we see the results of families, pastors, teachers and principals working together to educate future generations.”
We cherish you, our community members, who support our mission and make a difference in the lives of our students! I am honored to lead our Catholic Schools Department again this year, where our mission remains the same: serving our students and families and creating disciples of Jesus.
Katie Perata is executive director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Sacramento.