The sign in front of St. Joseph Catholic School is a popular place for a “First Day” photo op.

New Year’s Day has nothing on the first day of school, especially at our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools.

In fact, we were so excited to get our school family together, we started a little early.

Before school began, our administrators and staff, in cooperation with Fun Services and the Kaufmann Family, hosted a picnic for students and their families on the St. Joseph School grounds. There was food, inflatables, prizes, and lots of smiles.

Before school began, our teachers attended professional development days, learning, among other things, the history of St. Philip High School from BCACS historians Matt Davis, Class of 1979, and Sheri (Cobb) Robotham, Class of 2003. St. Philip High School turns 100 this school year. It’s a big deal.

Before school began, students came to Meet the Teacher night, middle and high school orientations, band camp, and sports practices.

Finally, on August 28th, the new school year began.

For some, it was their first time away from home. For others, it was the first time managing a locker and changing classes. For freshmen, it was the first day away from the familiar hallways of St. Joe. For new students, it was the first day with their new school family.

Some goodbyes included photos and tears, others a quick kiss blown from a car window. Either way, when the bell rang, the hellos began.

Our newly-minted eighth-graders throw Ms. Williamson a surprise birthday party the first week of school.

Some were traditional, like Ms. Hamel’s fifth-grade group photo or St. Philip High School’s hot dog picnic on Cherry Street. Some were unique, like the eighth graders throwing math teacher Ms. Williamson a birthday party or the high school students digging deeper into St. Philip’s history.

One hello, however, was universal – the first All-Schools Mass.

Every member of the BCACS family came to St. Joseph Church on Thursday to pray together, including Bishop Paul Bradley.

“For 100 years, our schools have shown that faith is the center of our lives,” Fr. John Fleckenstein said. “The opening school Mass certainly reminds us of that.”

Students from every grade level took a leadership role, whether reading Scripture, taking up the gifts, singing in the choir, or mentoring a younger student through the Mass.

Afterward, students and staff gathered with Bishop Bradley for a group photo – a moment captured in time that will set the stage for hundreds of special moments.

Come June, some of these souls will have received Confirmation, First Reconciliation, or First Communion. Come June, some of these souls will have graduated from high school. Come June, all of these souls will have grown in Christ.

But those are stories for another day. Right now, our backpacks are packed, our pencils are sharp, and our kids have been blessed.

It’s time to begin.

A family affair for over 100 years
The last day of school: Ardis Vandenboss & Danielle Orton
Questions? Call Cathy Erskine at 269.963.1131