The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe was December 12th, but our St. Joseph School administrators had been planning for it since the summer.

That is when St. Joseph pastor Fr. Christopher Ankley, St. Joseph principal Sara Myers, and St. Joseph assistant-principal Katie Reed attended the Latino Enrollment Institute at Notre Dame. They wanted to know how to serve our Latino students better.

“One of the things we learned is Our Lady of Guadalupe is very important in the Hispanic cultures,” Mrs. Myers said.

With that in mind, a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe was hung in the foyer of St. Joseph Elementary School. The administration hired Monika Rosas to be the school’s madrina – Spanish for “godmother” – who acts as a liaison to Hispanic families. Together with Ms. Rosas and Fr. Jose, the staff planned a special Our Lady of Guadalupe school celebration for December 12th.

“Fr. Jose once told me that for Hispanic people the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was like the Fourth of July, Christmas, Mom and apple pie all rolled into one celebration and then some,” Fr. Chris said. “We can’t overlook such an important part of the Hispanic culture when we have a growing number of Hispanics enrolling in our schools.”

Before the feast day, students studied the history of Juan Diego and Our Lady.

On December 12th, the entire school attended the 8 a.m. Mass, where many of our Latino students wore their festival clothes.

“The students were so excited to show their traditional dress,” Mrs. Myers said. “Even a couple days before, I heard the girls talking about wearing their dresses and dancing.”

Fr. Jose, along with Latino families, held a special presentation for the students, teaching them about the feast day, performing some of the festival dances, and inviting them to the big St. Joseph Church Mass and Festival that evening.

After all, this is a universal Catholic feast day.

“She is Our Lady of the Americas, and this is an important feast for everyone to learn about and celebrate,” Fr. Chris said.

Having a strong Latino presence in our schools, as well as a strong Burmese presence, offers our students unique opportunities to deepen their Catholic faith.

“In many ways, our students learning the different traditions makes our whole student body a lot more spiritual,” Ms. Reed said. “They’relearning different ways of celebrating Mass, different ways of praying, different saints that are important to different countries. It has really contributed to educating them as a whole.”

Plans are in the works for next year’s Our Lady of Guadalupe school celebration, as well as identifying a Catholic feast day of particular importance to our Burmese students.

“We are looking forward to planning something focused on the Burmese culture this spring,” Mrs. Myers said.

These celebrations foster inclusion, not just diversity, but that opportunity is present every day at our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools. It’s the natural consequence of being family.

“We are lucky because we have a diverse student population,” Mrs. Myers said. “Since our kids are with each other on a daily basis, they become like siblings. They are learning together and playing together, which is a great way for them to learn about each other’s cultures and what we all bring to the table.”

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Questions? Call Cathy Erskine at 269.963.1131