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Schools celebrate special week

For sixth-grader Angelica Zuniga, it’s all about family, praying to Jesus and pajamas-and-crazy hair day.

"My crazy hair can give anybody a laugh," Zuniga said of creating two pigtails and braiding the rest of her hair in all directions during Catholic Schools Week at St. Leonard School in Madison.

Zuniga also looks forward to this year’s Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 celebration for the school’s annual movie night at the local Knights of Columbus hall, which she attends with her older sister, Diana. And she likes the annual soup and pie dinner the school hosts for the community, also at the Knights’ hall, where she and classmates will "sing songs about Jesus."

That mix of family, faith and fun sums up Catholic schools’ desire to teach to the whole child – and matches up with this year’s theme set by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), "Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service," said Patrick Slattery, superintendent of schools.

"We can talk about academics and faith, and our schools are often on the same property as our churches," Slattery said. "We pray together, we laugh together, we cry together, we celebrate together."

Eighth-graders in the Omaha area will celebrate together Feb. 2 at the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass with Archbishop George J. Lucas at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.

Slattery said he will visit several schools Jan. 30 with a staff member of the NCEA, which has decided to showcase the Omaha archdiocese and other dioceses around the country during the week in social media and other venues.

And for Zuniga and more than 19,800 other Catholic school students in 70 elementary and high schools across the archdiocese – and their teachers, administrators and staff – the week is a time to celebrate learning, praying and being together in classrooms, hallways, churches, sports fields and auditoriums.

"It’s a special week just for Catholic schools," said Miranda Hornback, teacher facilitator at St. Ludger School in Creighton.

St. Ludger puts on a soup dinner for the community during the week. And as a service project, all 30 students make a special visit to the local nursing home to sing and play bingo. Like many other schools, St. Ludger also has a parent and grandparent day, dress down days, a quiz bowl and other fun competitions, Hornback said.

Scooter races and basketball free throw contests will be part of the fun at St. Philip Neri School in Omaha, and students will learn about health and safety with visits from police, fire and other experts, said Mary Simerly, principal.

"It gets the kids excited about where they are," Simerly said of the week. "Catholic schools are unique."

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