It Takes a Village – by Ellen Celestial

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If anyone were to ask me when I started looking into the local school options after our oldest son was born, I would actually be a little embarrassed to admit how early I did so. He was still in diapers. But I am a planner, and could also make a career out of being a worry-wart. Every parent wants the best for their children, but every parent has different ideas on what “the best” is for their children.

Neither my husband nor I are originally from Pennsylvania and had no preconceived ideas about the local school options. After attending several Open Houses, reading on-line reviews and talking to several sets of parents and students from the multiple local parochial, private and local public elementary schools over the years, we ultimately decided on Corpus Christi.

We suspected that paying tuition for elementary school for 9 years for one child may result in our family having to sacrifice in other ways, and even more so for a second and/or subsequent children, but our family values education and felt that the smaller class sizes, religious values, and STEM opportunities were in-line with our focus. We were willing to make those sacrifices because we have enough, and our faith that God will provide is strong. We have a roof over our heads, reliable vehicles, jobs to go to, food on our table, and can usually manage to take our family away on a vacation from time-to-time to spend time together and recharge. Corpus Christi has been well-worth any sacrifices that we aren’t aware that we may be missing.

We left the Kindergarten registration day confident that we were making the right decision and since that day I have nothing but positive stories to validate that decision. Days into the school year after an early morning drop-off at morning extended care, my son was clinging to my leg, crying and begging me not to go. Mrs. Menicucci came to the rescue and I was reluctantly able to slip away. I endured the 25-minute drive to work, feeling sad and guilty for running out, and also remembering that he hadn’t done that since the toddler room at his former daycare. I was anxious and I just wanted the day to be over so I could go pick up my Kindergartener. But when I arrived at work I saw that I had missed a voicemail while my phone was on silent mode. It was Mrs. Menicucci assuring me that after engaging my son in conversation, he was absolutely fine and that she understood how hard it is and wanted to put my mind at ease. It did, and that voicemail changed my whole day.

Our decision was even further evident after an unfortunate incident with our family only several weeks later. My husband became unexpectedly ill and was hospitalized. As a full-time working mother with two young children, my plate was very full and I was running on prayer and adrenaline. I managed to get the boys ready in the mornings, shuffle them to their schools, take them for afternoon hospital visits with their Dad, all while taking care of the minimum of the household chores in the evening. I also had to prepare to do the same the following day, while trying to hide my panic about their Dad’s condition. One day I received a note from Ms. Martin and a picture from Mrs. Dolaway, Mrs. Flohr and Mrs. Stonehill: “[Your son] had some worries today, so we pulled him out of class to talk and it seemed to make him feel better.” I was elated. Sure, for a few seconds I was disappointed in myself for not being more attentive to my children’s emotional states during this time, but like they say, “it takes a village.” It was a relief that he had other adults to trust and to talk to. Furthermore, only four weeks into the school year, his teacher recognized that something was different about his demeanor that day.

We now have had children at Corpus Christi for 3 years and I have so many more positive stories to share. I would not give up the family atmosphere, the friendships made or the academics our children have gained for anything. That saying is on-point: to raise a child it does take a village. We picked the right village.

Corpus Decision – by Sarah Diaz

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It’s that time of year again… when parents all over Chambersburg and the surrounding areas are making important decisions about where they will send their children to school next year. I can’t help but take some time to reflect back on the decision I made 5 years ago to send my oldest child to Corpus Christi School.

First of all, a little background about me: I went to Corpus Christi for elementary school, I taught at a Catholic School in San Diego before I had children, and my mom has worked at Corpus Christi for over 30 years. With all of that information, you would think that my decision to send my kids here would have been an easy one. It likely would have been if money was no object. However, it was and it is. The fact of the matter is, when I chose to leave the workforce and dedicate myself to being a stay-at-home mom we had to make sacrifices as a family and continue to do so to this day.

As the date loomed closer to sign my firstborn up for kindergarten, I found that the decision of where to send him was weighing heavily on my heart. So, I did what every mother does when she is in desperate need of advice: I took to social media and sent out a plea for help. To be quite honest, there was a part of me that hoped to hear glowing reviews about the public school in my neighborhood. Instead, I received only excellent feedback about Corpus Christi. Every single one of my friends who responded told me how happy they were with the school, the teachers, the community, and the education their children were receiving at Corpus Christi.

Still undecided, my husband and I visited the school. Mrs. Flohr, the school’s Administrative Assistant (and truly the heart of the school in my humble opinion!) took us on a tour. As we walked, she told us stories. She told us about the time her daughter fell asleep during class in kindergarten and how the teacher let her sleep because ‘she figured she needed the rest.’ She told us about the most popular lunch menu item (All Hail the BOSCO STICK!), she pointed out puzzles in the hallway outside of one of the classrooms telling us ‘there’s always something creative going on in there.’ Mostly, what she did was bring the school to life for us. 

When we left that day, we both knew that Corpus Christi was the right place for our children. 

Currently, my oldest child is in 3rd grade and my youngest is in 1st. We continue to choose Corpus Christi for all of the reasons stated above and more. 

If I were to give a tour today, like Mrs. Flohr did for me 5 years ago, I would have my own stories to tell that would bring the school to life for the visitors. 

I would tell them that one of the proudest moments of my life was watching my oldest son get up in front of a huge audience and tell space jokes with his buddy at the school’s annual talent show a few years ago — and how the two were received with roaring applause & laughter from the most supportive school community I have ever known.

 I would tell them that on the first day of school this year, my youngest son was terribly anxious and in tears on the way to school, but was laughing and smiling as he got out of the car because our Principal was wearing big, silly glasses and ringing a cowbell to welcome the kids back. 

I would tell them that last year while my kindergartener was biding his time during his brother’s soccer game, one of the Corpus Christi 4th graders entertained him and one of his buddies by giving them piggyback rides around the park. Or about the time at Chorus practice one day, my 3rd grade son dropped his music on the floor and looked close to tears as he struggled to get the papers back in order. A 5th grader in the top row noticed his struggle and came to help. My heart nearly burst as I watched her put his papers in order and help him find his place in the song before returning to her spot. 

 I would tell them about the time my son’s class was misbehaving for a substitute, and after completing a religion lesson that must have weighed heavily on his heart, he went up to the substitute and apologized for the way he and the class were behaving. And that when he says what he loves most about Corpus Christi, at the top of his list are that they pray and go to Mass.

I would tell them about how Kindergarten beat 1st grade in a tug of war at field day last year while parents, teachers, and middle school students looked on and cheered as if  Kindergarten had just won an Olympic Gold Medal. 

I would tell them how Father Lyons gives high-fives to my boys every time he sees them… and how they pretty much always miss his hand the first few attempts because he’s really good at faking them out. 

I would tell them about the time my son thought he was in trouble for writing something deemed inappropriate for school on a Halloween art project. When the principal came to talk to him about it, instead of punishing him, she recognized a very worried and good-hearted little boy and helped him make it scary, but school appropriate. And how at the end of the day, my child who is still working on his social skills, stopped to tell her, “Thank you for helping me today.”

All that, and I haven’t even mentioned how both of my kids are absolutely thriving and meeting their full potential both academically and socially thanks to the extreme dedication of their amazing teachers. 

These are the stories I would tell… and more. 

Yes, we have had to make sacrifices to pay the school tuition every month. But, as I’m sure you can see, what we have gotten in return has been absolutely priceless. We continue to choose Corpus Christi School for our children, and I whole-heartedly recommend that you choose Corpus Christi for your kids, too. 

Relationship Builds – Patty Dolaway

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CCCS Drama Club put on the musical production “Kilroy was Here” at the Capitol Theatre this Fall.  It was the 21st year our students put on a play. This one included 27 of our 6th, 7th, & 8th graders, and will certainly go down in history as one of the best productions yet.

That being said, I do have to confess that each year I have probably said the same thing; “This was the best show ever”! But in all sincerity, I have honestly thought that each year. Now it could be because I have watched most of these students grow up in front of my eyes. A large majority of them started at CCCS as kindergarteners. And to see them take the stage as 12 – 14-year-olds is a proud and sentimental moment.

The 14 year old, who steps way out of her comfort level to take the stage and stand in front of a microphone to sing and dance with two of her classmates,  the 12 year old who is blessed with musical talent, but not usually one who is willing to take center stage, the 13 year old who rarely speaks above the level of a whisper (or mumble), but comes out on stage and moves up the aisle proclaiming his line in the play; those performances bring a tear to the eye of the teachers and staff who have been blessed to watch them grow up and grow in confidence.

And where does that confidence, or better yet courageousness come from? All those students I mentioned, as well as undoubtedly many others on that stage, found the strength to show up for auditions and say yes to the part they were offered.

I believe the courage comes from several areas. One, their parents are very supportive and encouraging. Two, their fellow middle school classmates are inclusive and caring. Third, and perhaps the primary reason, is that the students trust the directors of the Drama Club.

The students are confident that the part they are offered is one that they can handle. The directors, Mr. Dortenzo, Mrs. Cermak, Mr. Morrow, Mrs. Super, and Mrs. Moore know the students. They spend time each year choosing the play/musical, keeping in mind the students who will be taking the stage. This can only happen in a school where the teachers and students develop strong relationships. A school where the teachers know the students.  I can say with certainty, that many of these 12-14-year-olds who took the stage on October 25, 2018, would never even think about joining a Drama Club in a school of 1,800 + middle schoolers.

CCCS offers many unique opportunities for our students. Most leave our school as leaders among leaders. The relationships they develop with other students and with the adults in the school are strong and important. These relationships help all of us, students and teachers, to Know Jesus, Love Jesus, and Serve Jesus in everything that we do.

God Bless!

A Joyful Noise – Patty Dolaway

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A Joyful Noise

Corpus Christi’s eleven o’clock Mass on the last Sunday of Ordinary Time was noisy! Babies to the left of me, toddler’s to the right of me, a dissonance of cries and dropping toys somewhere behind me. And they were such beautiful sounds that I smiled throughout the Mass and watched some beautiful children doing what they do best, being who God made them to be.

Thinking back to when I was that Mom with noisy children at Mass, I’m pretty sure that I did not smile through the noise. Being older and wiser now, I want to assure these parents that they too, can smile through the revelry! We have no Church without children. We can all recall Jesus admonishing his apostles when they tried to keep the children from moving forward when Jesus was talking, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”(Matthew 19:14)

Children make noise, they move and delight in what is around them. As the Processional hymn began a little one, barely old enough to stand on her own, began to blast out sounds that were surely singing in her mind. Her Mom, a CCCS alum and a beautiful singer herself, made a motion to quiet the little girl. And yes, I remember doing the same to my children years ago. This day I leaned toward her grandmother, smiled and said, “tell her to keep singing”!

She did continue ‘singing” here and there throughout the Mass. I could not help but notice two unrelated couples sitting in the same pew with this little girl. One a couple in their 40’s, another a couple in their 70’s. Throughout Mass they’d all take peaks at this Child of God and a smile would come to their faces, too!

And then all their faces really lit up when, upon returning to the pew after receiving the Eucharist, the little girl’s mom asked the one couple (40’s couple) if they would like to hold her. Which they gladly did and even shared their joy by passing her to the older couple.

Mass was an extra blessing for me on this last Sunday of Ordinary time! And I delight in the hope that many of these children that were making the joyous noise at Mass will one day have the opportunity to enroll at CCCS. Our school will certainly gain a chorus of beautiful souls if that happens!

Being There – Patty Dolaway

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Last month I “happened” to be in the hallway near our primary classrooms. I noticed a first-grade girl, (I’ll call her Susie) making her way to the water fountain, crying. As I walked toward Susie, I saw her teacher making hand motions, calling me down to the classroom. When I got to the classroom, the teacher quickly told me that one of Susie’s friends had died last night and asked if I would please take her somewhere to talk.

It is without any doubt in my mind that God put me there at that exact moment. My name is Patty Dolaway and this is why I have worked at CCCS for the past 32 years. It is where I am supposed to be today.  It would be next to impossible to tell you the number of times that a faculty or staff member has been at the exact right place at the exact right time to “be there” for one of our students.

Susie, after some pretty heavy sobbing, was able to tell me that her friend who died is 5 years old. She had a chronic illness, but she died quickly and unexpectedly.

I happen to know that Susie’s grandfather died before she was born, so I was able to suggest that perhaps her grandfather could be her friend’s grandpa in Heaven. That did elicit a small smile and nod of her head. Her crying slowed down a bit and I suggested that she talk to her friend and her grandfather in her prayers and ask them to take care of each other.

About that time another teacher walked by and saw Susie’s distress and stopped to talk with her and share some loving thoughts. That is also what we do. We don’t walk away from sadness (or any emotion our students are having), we enter into it with them.

Taking care of each other is what we do at CCCS. Yes, we educate our students. In fact, we do that remarkably well. But it is in our relationship with our students, their families, and with each other that we grow in God’s love.

We try every day to model that often cliched saying, “What would Jesus do?” It is not a cliche at CCCS; it is the form and substance of what we do here every day. Do we fall short somedays? Of course, but we know that God will work with our imperfections to help us be the people our students need.

Our mission: To Know Jesus, to Love Jesus, and to Serve Jesus.

I hope that I can offer some small insights into what makes CCCS the right choice for our children.