Today we have a quick chat with Vincent Albrecht, principal at St. Edward the Confessor School in Syosset, NY. Principal Albrecht shares the story of how Catholic schools bring richness to the Lenten Season and Holy Week to students and their families.
Emily Guarnieri: Principal Albrecht, good to see you today. I know we are in Holy Week. For Catholics, this should be the most important part of the liturgical year. How has St. Edward the Confessor School been preparing for Holy Week and Easter?
Principal Vincent Albrecht: At St. Edwards, like in all Catholic Schools, Lent is a very special time. Here, we start each week off by gathering as a school community to reflect on the season. Myself, along with members of our staff, take turns leading the children in a short prayer service, where we offer a reflection based upon a theme. This year, our theme has been focused on the “I AM” statements of Christ from Scripture and what those statements mean for us today and our journey of faith this Lent.
EG: —weekly prayer service. What does that look like? Is it like a mini-retreat? A school assembly?
VA: Students in grades K-8 assemble in the gym or cafeteria for this prayerful service. There is music playing to help set a spiritual atmosphere in the room. Either a teacher or the principal begins with a Bible reading and then a reflection. The Lenten theme each week follows the Gospel readings, and we leave with ideas and suggestions to put our faith into practice throughout the week.
Each week we are encouraged and reminded of our Lenten practices and are given time to reflect on our Christian responses to the previous week. We try to rediscover the importance of being faithful to God and to our calling as a people of faith.
EG: What are some of those examples of putting their faith into practice? In the classroom? At home?
VA: Our children are challenged at the end of each prayer service with a weekly Lenten at home experience. We ask the children to spend some time praying for each other, helping each other, or, as we have done the last few weeks, working on self-care by exploring our personal relationship with Christ and examining who we are.
The teachers review with the students what they are doing to follow through with our weekly challenge. As we head into Holy Week, we are focusing on how we can help Christ carry the cross by reaching out and embracing that friend, either in school or at home, that might be going through something difficult or by trying to reconnect with someone who maybe you used to be friends with but have let something interfere with that relationship.
EG: Is it just the religion teachers who lead? Or math and English teachers too? Science? Art?
VA: Every member of our staff, teachers, TA’s, and other staff members are involved in these prayer services. It is important that the children see the faith experiences of our varied and different staff members. Our Prayer Service on the Monday of Holy Week is traditionally led by our 8th graders, who take us on a journey from Palm Sunday to the beauty of Easter Sunday.
EG: Is this your first year? Or do you do these prayer services every year?
VA: We have been doing these morning prayer experiences for the last ten years here at St. Edwards during both Advent and Lent. Each year our theme changes, some years we have developed a theme based upon the scripture readings for the day, and other years our theme focuses on the Scriptural theme that we have chosen for the school year.
EG: How do parents respond? What are you hearing from them?
VA: We always receive great feedback on these short prayer experiences from our parents over the years. In the first few years, we had many parents who would drop their children off and stay for morning prayer. The last few years that has not been possible due to Covid, but we look forward to them returning to pray with us next Advent.
Parents love the fact that we maintain our strong Catholic Identity throughout the year and that we do it in many different ways. Our hope is that we can reach as many students as we can with an inspirational message, hoping to provide them with spiritual food for the journey through these holy seasons.
EG: We’re here in Holy Week. What’s happening at your school? What are you hoping for your students during Easter and their school break?
VA: Holy Week at St. Edwards begins with the students going to Reconciliation in grades 3-8. Father Mike, our pastor, and a few visiting priests will guide our students through this great experience. The children are invited to participate on Monday evening with children throughout the parish with Stations of the Cross.
On Tuesday, the students in our classes begin exploring the Triduum and will spend a great deal of time visiting our chapel to talk about Jesus and the washing of the feet. On Wednesday, the students will participate in Stations of the Cross as a school community, hopefully outside if the weather holds up. It’s a big week!
EG: Beautiful! Thank you for sharing the story of St. Edwards during this special time of year.
VA: Amen. Join us if you can!
St. Edward the Confessor Catholic School serves the community of Syosset, NY. Are you interested in exploring St. Edwards? You can easily schedule a visit and tour the facility. You can also see what students are up to on Facebook and Instagram. You can learn more about Catholic Culture and the Morning Start Initiative.