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39th annual Catholic Schools Week kicks off with carnivals, community service

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband
St. Patrick School fifth-graders Emily Joyce, 11, and Elizabeth Pulaski, 10, dust a statue of St. Genevieve. Students cleaned the church and school as part of Catholic Schools Week. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Ava Orie (bottom) is joined by her first-grade classmates on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in making Valentine's greetings at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall. The cards were for veterans and Meals on Wheels volunteers. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
St. Patrick School sixth-grader Tad Thompson, 11, helps to clean the school's choir balcony. Students cleaned the church and school as part of Catholic Schools Week. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
First-grader Emma Blackburn makes a Valentine on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, at Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall. The students were making cards for veterans and Meals on Wheels volunteers. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
St. Patrick School seventh-grader Roman Quinn, 13, helps to clean the school's choir balcony. Students cleaned the church and school as part of Catholic Schools Week. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Students at St. Wendelin School in Butler portray the life of St. Rose of Lima through a skit in the Butler school on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, as part of Catholic Schools Week. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
St. Wendelin School seventh-grader Cassie Cornelius plays the part of St. Joan of Arc in the Butler school on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. The school performed skits on saints as part of Catholic Schools Week. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

About 21,000 students in the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese are celebrating the 39th annual Catholic Schools Week with a combination of prayer, community service and fun.

“A lot of them are doing charity-type things” this week, said Michael Latusek, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese.

Catholic Schools Week runs nationally from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2. This year's theme is “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.” Schools in the region generally start the week with a Mass, and some hold carnivals, but community service is a dominant theme. Here are some of the service activities planned:

• Christ the Divine Teacher Academy, Aspinwall, and St. Vitus School, New Castle, are making Valentines for several organizations.

• North American Martyrs School, Monroeville, is making toys for the animals at Animals Friends.

• St. Mary's School, Glenshaw, is raising money for the Lymphoma Society with a basketball shooting event.

• Christ the Divine Teacher began making cards for special occasions a couple of years ago for senior citizens in Meals on Wheels and veterans at the nearby H.J. Heinz campus of the VA Healthcare System in Aspinwall.

“It might sound like a simple little thing, but for some senior citizen living alone, when they get their meal with a bright card and a silly joke, it cheers them up,” said Sister Dorothy Dolak, principal of Christ the Divine Teacher.

• Junior Achievement will teach 3,621 students in 17 Catholic Schools about business and economics, with business leaders teaching the students what it takes to be successful.

As it celebrates its schools, the diocese also recognizes the challenges they face. Enrollment in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the diocese has fallen from 23,000 students in 2010-11 to 21,000 this year. That's a decrease of 8.7 percent. As a result, 11 schools closed over the past two years.

Latusek said some parishes have formed consortium schools, supported by parishes of the merging schools.

“Rather than two or three (parishes) running schools with fewer students, they merged” to allow variety and larger classrooms, he said. He said it is up to parishes to decide whether to merge.

The diocese this week is beginning the Catholic Schools Network, a marketing platform to promote the 91 parochial schools in Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence, Greene and Washington counties. The campaign, promoted at www.CatholicSchoolsNetwork.net, allows each parochial school to create its own community-oriented marketing and outreach to promote itself.

The diocese also plans to open Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in the fall of 2014 in Cranberry. It will replace North Catholic High School in Troy Hill.

Bill Zlatos is a reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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