The last week of January in the United States, the Catholic Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week to highlight the unique contribution that Catholic schools make to not only the Church, but also the wider society. The Congregation of Holy Cross’s many primary and secondary schools across the country join in these celebrations each year.
A great example is Notre Dame High School of West Haven, Connecticut, which uses Catholic Schools Week to celebrate its Holy Cross Heritage.
The week began with the Eucharist Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Joseph A. Sidera, C.S.C., who graduated from the school in 1959. In his homily, Fr. Sidera spoke of the holiness and virtue of Fr. Jacques Dujarie and of Blessed Basil Moreau and of their commitment to education in the Holy Cross Tradition.
Fr. Sidera challenged the 600 students with the following words: “You are to be the new heralds of hope, justice, and peace to the world. It is for you to forge the means to deliver others from want so they may live without threat, without fear. What you carry in your head will not be enough. You will need to carry in your heart what is right and just, the very values taught by the traditions of this school.”
Two members of the senior class offered these reflections on their experience of education in the Holy Cross Tradition over four years at Notre Dame of West Haven.
Colby McLiverty, ’16
My education in the Holy Cross tradition has enriched me through seeing the mission of Holy Cross carried out throughout the country. As a student who traveled to Austin and San Antonio, Texas last year, I was able to see the impact that Holy Cross has on the lives of the less fortunate. The things I did while I was in Texas related to the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy and Notre Dame High School’s 2015-16 annual theme of ‘respect.’
I experienced mercy while preparing and serving dinner to hundreds of homeless people in a San Antonio shelter. I was able to speak with many of the people we served and learned their stories. They all expressed so much gratitude to each one of us that helped prepare the meal for them. I also gained a newfound respect for the migrant workers, who make up a majority of our nation’s farm laborers, while spending a day picking cauliflower and planting onions in the hot, Texas sun. The food we were harvesting and planting would go on to help those in Southern Texas who go hungry. “Brothers for Others” is what I observed.
I was one of a few ND students who also traveled to Holy Cross College at Notre Dame, Indiana last summer to meet with other Holy Cross students from around the country. Together we learned more about the Holy Cross mission and how it applies to us in ways we did not even realize. We took the things that we learned from the conference and from each other back to our home schools where we could put them to use.
Coming back to ND at the start of this school year, I could notice the things that we talked about: the brotherhood, the respect, the tradition, the reverence, and the diversity. I believe that my four years of Holy Cross education at Notre Dame High School has changed me and formed me into a better person who knows Jesus and myself more than a student who did not have a Holy Cross experience. Let’s all take some time this week to step back and try to find the things that make ND and the Holy Cross tradition special and unique.
Michael Secchiaroli, ‘16
In light of Holy Cross Heritage Week, it is good to reflect on the special communities we have the opportunity to be a part of. We all belong to a plethora of communities that are unique to each student here at Notre Dame. However, the most integral community to which I belong is the Notre Dame community itself. Coming from public elementary and middle schools, an all-boys, Catholic high school was foreign territory to me. I had made some great friendships in my lower school years; however, none of those will ever compare to the brotherhood Notre Dame has given me.
It is quite unique that over six hundred boys coming from about 35 towns in the State of Connecticut can come together to form this sort of family that is our high school. The family extends beyond the fact that we all go to the same school and see each other five days a week. We become part of a tradition, one that allows us to academically persevere in August’s heat, and to travel the distances we do to support our brothers. It is a type of connection that allows an alumnus to see someone wearing a Notre Dame shirt in the grocery store and then dive into an enthusiastic and intriguing conversation comparing experiences and memories of Notre Dame.
As we move forward in Holy Cross Heritage Week, let us take time to thank those who have made it possible for us to experience Notre Dame. Recognize that your parents, grandparents, faculty, teachers, administrators, and alumni have made huge sacrifices so you can attend Notre Dame. All of those sacrifices are because they know how important and special this experience is, and how it will shape who we become after we graduate. The connection is far more than friendships that will last a lifetime. It is a brotherhood. Everyone is a brother in the full meaning of the word. Equality, loyalty, respect, and selflessness are just a few of the characteristics of each member of the Notre Dame brotherhood. -- a special community that is largely responsible for the person I am today.