Andrew Mentock
Freelance Writer
August 31, 2017 // Local

Three parishes build community through one school

Andrew Mentock
Freelance Writer

Mishawaka Catholic School was created in 2011. The school combines three former Catholic grade schools to create one kindergarten through eighth-grade school.

Together they combine over 300 years of faith-filled academic experiences, which helps the school foster Catholic values in its students. By joining forces, their goal is to form a more dynamic learning atmosphere that will strengthen the spiritual and educational needs of each student.

“All of our parishes are fully supportive of our school,” said Father Jacob Meyer, the executive pastor of the school. “Catholic schools necessitate large sacrifices from the parishes that feed them. However, it is completely worth it when we are able to see our kids not only grow in knowledge but, most importantly, in the Catholic culture and worldview. When there is a need, the three parishes tackle it together.”

The three parishes’ ability to work together was put on display this summer.

“We needed to update our technology infrastructure and the three parishes held a drive to bring three new computer labs (one for each campus,) as well as fund more technology in the classrooms [such as] Smartboards, flat-screen TVs, and more.”

Each parish is considered a satellite campus. The St. Bavo campus is for Early Childhood through second grade, the St. Joseph campus is for third through fifth grades and the St. Monica campus is for sixth through eighth grades.

“The best part of our multicampus system is the resource of space and buy-in from three parish communities,” Father Meyer said. “We have three gyms, three sets of meeting rooms, dedicated classrooms for our electives, three parish families to provide support and volunteers, and the list goes on.”

Students gather on the playground to view the elipse on Monday, Aug. 21.

All students in fifth through eighth grades are invited to participate in ICCL sports at Mishawaka Catholic. The league features sports such as football, volleyball, soccer and basketball. Even though the school usually fares well in athletic competition, winning is not their focus.

“It is our philosophy that athletics is an important component to overall ministry and education of our students,” Mishawaka Catholic states on its website. “Cooperation from the parents to give their time and talent is vital to the success of our athletic programs.”

The school has a number of staff members including Karen Salvador, principal; Beth Whitfield, vice principal; Tammy Christianson, business manager; Tony Violi, bookkeeper, as well as a number of teachers and support staff. The three parish pastors are also heavily involved with the school. They are Father Meyer, at St. Monica Parish; Father Chris Lapp, at St. Joseph Parish; and Father Peter Pacini, CSC, at St. Bavo Parish.

“Each priest is present at all the campuses but most particularly at their own,” Father Meyer said. “At the middle school, I teach every week in the religion classes, in addition to preaching the school Masses, which are Tuesday through Friday. I am also there to teach in the other subject areas when the church has been influential, as well as simply being a presence in the halls.”

The transition from three separate schools to one wasn’t easy for the parishes at first but, by working together, they have been able to do some great things.

“It’s certainly a work in progress,” Father Lapp said. “What’s most important is unity; that we all are fully invested in the success of the school and working together. The school has been a model for the three parishes, showing us that when we pool our resources, we can do some truly great work.”

The school’s mission statement is to build “disciples of Jesus Christ through faith formation, academic excellence and service to others in accordance with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.”

For as long as the parishes, school administration and staff are so willing to work together, they will be doing just that — creating disciples of Jesus Christ.”

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