By Clare Roach
Holy Cross School in South Bend values the richness of its diverse community and has a tradition of celebrating black history in February. This year, however, the teachers at Holy Cross reached out to the school, parish and local community to re-envision how to integrate Black History Month more robustly into the life of the school.
On Sunday, Feb. 4, a committee of teachers, administrators, pastoral staff, parents and community partners offered up ideas, local contacts and prayers. Devising a plan to leverage assets in the community, the participants’ goal was to help students understand the many ways African-Americans have contributed to the vitality of their nation and their Church.
In addition to the black history topics teachers traditionally integrate into their everyday instruction, Holy Cross School welcomed artists, entrepreneurs, culinary experts and people of faith to help celebrate this important month set aside for learning, celebrating and elevating the contributions of black Americans.
Chloe Dukes, of the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture and an alumna of Holy Cross School, visited the second-, third- and fourth-grade classrooms to introduce students to various African-American artists and art forms throughout history and in modern times. After Dukes’ presentation, students created their own art pieces based on the work of Lorna Simpson. In addition, Anthony Douglas of Teacher’s Credit Union and Dr. Paul McLoed, D.D.S., visited the early elementary classrooms to talk about their experiences making a difference in their community.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, students, teachers and administrators celebrated a spirited Mass in the African-American tradition, with Deacon Mel Tardy of St. Augustine Parish preaching. The Mass began with an introduction to St. Martin de Porres, during which those present asked for his intercession, in Spanish: “San Martín de Porres, ruega por nosotros,” which the students had been practicing all month. The liturgy was accompanied by the school choir, which sang numerous African-American spirituals, and concluded with a hymn sung by visiting vocalist Pamela Harris, a friend of Holy Cross School and a member of neighboring Greater Holy Temple Church of God in Christ. A parish family present at the liturgy was so moved by the Mass that it offered to purchase an icon of Father Augustus Tolton for the school.
Later that day Wendy Summers, a member of St. Pius X Parish and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Black Advisory Council, visited with Holy Cross middle school students, inviting them to get to know a variety of black saints and holy men and women. Summers’ presentation included stories about Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, Charles Lwanga and Josephine Bakita, as well as several Americans on the road to sainthood, like Father Tolton and Mother Mary Lange.
The month of celebration will conclude with a meal for the entire school community prepared by Calvin Metts, sous-chef at the Morris Inn at the University of Notre Dame, which will invite students to consider the great contributions of African-Americans to the culinary landscape of the United States.
Angela Budzinksi, principal at Holy Cross School, said, “Holy Cross has long been enriched by our school’s incredible diversity. This month we’ve helped our students not only learn about black history, but to see, taste and hear for themselves the many ways our school is strengthened by our very own African-American community. We are so blessed to have such great supporters who jumped at every chance to help us engage with our students on this important topic.”
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