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Promoting Kindness this Summer: How to Speak with Your Child About Empathy and Friendship

We’re living in a time when kindness goes a very long way in demonstrating our empathy and friendship to others. After a turbulent year, young students are eager to get back into the classroom and interact with their peers.

As they continue to navigate the everyday challenges of childhood while also keeping up with the task of understanding the many changes occurring in the world today, young students must be reminded of the importance of kindness in their interactions with others.

This summer, promote kindness within the academic and social lives of your child by encouraging the communication of empathy and the building of friendship.

The Importance of Developing Empathy and Friendship Building Skills

Empathy and friendship are just two of the many ways in which humans communicate and interact with the people and things closest to them—it’s how we show one another we care. Depending on a wide range of factors, children may find it easy to interact with their peers and build meaningful relationships. For others, friendship building and other significant social skills may come less naturally. But that’s okay, because families can work together to give children the communication tools they need to effectively convey their empathy toward others and strengthen their friendship building skills.

How to Strengthen to the Communication of Empathy and Friendship in Your Child

In order to help your child interact comfortably with their peers at school and in the widest range of social environments as possible, you can promote the spread of kindness to your child right at home.

1. Maintain a parent-child relationship built upon a foundation of love and security to make your child feel more comfortable trusting and communicating with others.
2. Talk about feelings at home to teach your child that vulnerability and sensitivity are positive characteristics that contribute to healthier relationships with others.
3. Read stories that teach lessons about friendship to provide your child with context for the importance of these issues.
4. Practice validation when interacting with children to ensure they understand the importance of feelings—both their own and those of others.
5. Remain patient throughout the process of teaching these important lessons to your child. He or she will learn to practice patience with others, as a result.

When teaching your child about the importance of empathy and friendship, as well as the ways in which we can effectively communicate with others in meaningful, powerful ways, it’s important to invite him or her into the process by using reflection as a means of unpacking the important life lessons you will learn together on this journey.

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3 Ways to Make Summer 2021 a Positive Experience for Your Child

Like so many things to come from 2020 and 2021, the summer season should still be considered an unprecedented time—one that parents should consider carefully as they prepare their children to engage in their summer activities, including social or development groups, summer school, camp, and others.

Summertime, however, should be an exciting time for your child, and it’s important to take the steps necessary to ensure a positive experience for your child amidst the uncertainty of life post-COVID.

Below are three simple ways you can help your family escape the stress of this year and make Summer 2021 a positive experience for your child.

Find Joy in Nature

All around us, the world is teeming with life—all you have to do is seek it out. One of the easiest ways to encourage your child to explore his or her surroundings and learn more about the wonders of nature is to facilitate outdoor play whenever possible.

If you live near a body of water, plan a trip to the beach. Natural parks are another great option for those in landlocked areas. Regardless of where you to choose to have your outdoor outing, consider visiting the area before you bring your child along for the fun to ensure no overcrowding and that social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Bond on a Family Road Trip

Have a car and no place to be this summer? Plan a family road trip! Road trips don’t have to be exhausting, lengthy affairs. If you’re unwilling or unable to travel to a different state in your car, keep it local—research museums and other attractions that are within a two- to four-hour driving distance from your home.

On a summer family road trip, your destination should matter less than how you spend your time with your family along the journey. As you drive, speak with your children about their home and school lives, as well as what interests them. You may be surprised about what you can learn about your family members on the road!

Take Up a New Hobby

The summer time is the perfect opportunity for children to explore new hobbies. From art to sports, from music to writing, you never know what activity your child will be interested in next. During the summer months, encourage your child to explore their interests by exposing him or her to new experiences, such as trying out a new instrument or reading about a new process.

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The Pentecost Tradition and What It Means to You

The Pentecost tradition marks a very special time for Christians around the world, both historically and spiritually. In the weeks that followed the ascension of Jesus into Heaven, his apostles looked forward to the arrival of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their faith in his physical absence.

Each year, Pentecost traditions are performed by Catholics across the country in celebration of the Holy Spirit and its impact on the Roman Catholic denomination as a religious movement. Priests often appear in red ceremonial robes to celebrate the flames of the Holy Spirit, and the grand feasts of Pentecost mark the close of the Easter Season for the Church. The holiday is celebrated on the seventh Sunday of every Easter, falling this year on May 23.

Pentecost means something different to every Catholic, and each year, it’s important to review the history of the Pentecost in relation to the ascension of Jesus to prepare your spirit to celebrate the final days of the Easter Season.

The History of Pentecost

The Pentecost tradition traces back to the ascension of Jesus outlined in the New Testament of the Bible. Before Christ began his ascent into Heaven, his promise to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would arrive to guide them in faith continued to act as a guiding light toward salvation and God’s light.

As they prayed, the apostles felt compelled to speak in tongues, marking the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, apostles and many onlookers of Jerusalem gathered to listen to the very first Christian sermon delivered by Saint Peter. This moment in Christian history is commonly regarded as the birth of Christianity as an organized religion.

How is Pentecost Celebrated?

Each Catholic family celebrates the Pentecost tradition differently, but common ways to rejoice in the descent of the Holy Spirit on mankind include the attendance of dedicated church services and celebratory feasts.

To prepare your spirit to celebrate the Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, pray about your gratitude toward Jesus and his sacrifice. Reflecting on the importance of your faith and relationship with Christ can ready your spirit to rejoice in God’s mercy and light at the close of the Easter season.

What does Pentecost mean for you and your family?

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Understanding Faith: The Ascension of Jesus

The Ascension of Jesus is an essential event to our faith as Catholics, and it represents so much more than the physical departure of Jesus from Earth to Heaven.

For each of us, our relationship with Christ means something different and manifests itself in countless ways, endlessly evolving just as we do throughout our lives, but it is through the Ascension of Jesus that each Christian is tied to God the Father and blessed by Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice for humanity. 

Why Do We Celebrate the Ascension of Jesus?

As Jesus rose from Earth to Heaven, he was exalted and took his place at the right hand to God the Father. This glorification of Christ is a core component of the Christian faith, one that emphasizes the new relationship between Jesus and God, as well as that between Christ and the followers of the Church—us.

With his eleven apostles present to bear witness to his departure to arrive at the throne of God, the Ascension of Jesus occurred forty days after his resurrection from the tomb—for this reason, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on the fortieth day of Easter, and always on a Thursday.

Each May, we revel in the joy derived from being in the grace of God with the Feast of the Ascension. This year, the Feast will take place on May 15, 2021, serving as a celebration of our divine salvation. 

Spiritual Preparation for the Celebration of the Ascension of Jesus

Prayer and Reflection

One of the most effective ways to spiritually prepare yourself to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension is to further strengthen your faith through prayer and reflection. To pray and reflect successfully, take the time necessary to more thoroughly study your bible and incorporate your daily life into the practice of your faith, perhaps through a Bible study schedule.

Establish and Maintain Spiritual Calm

In addition to physical and mental pain, stress can negatively affect the health of our faith. Spiritually, you may feel less connected with your faith and relationship with God, preventing you from truly rejoicing the unconditional love that Christ holds for us during the Easter season. To better prepare yourself to celebrate the Ascension, establish and maintain spiritual calm through meditation or other activities that personally bring you calm, such as walking, reading, or writing. 

Connect with Your Family

As with any feast, we celebrate best surrounded by the people we care about most. As you prepare yourself to celebrate the ascension of Christ into Heaven, spend time with your family as often and as safely as possible, inviting them to rejoice in God’s love for us as we bask in the love we receive from those physically close to us. 

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Spreading Faith at Home and in Your Community

As Catholics, our faith is what bonds us together and keeps us grounded in our shared loved of Christ. Through our families and our communities, we grow even stronger in our faith, fostering communities and relationships with the principles and teachings of Christ at their foundation.

For this reason, we should always strive to share our faith with our loved ones, both at home and in our communities.

This is easier said than done, and with pandemic restrictions still in place that prevent large gatherings of unvaccinated individuals, this mission of faith becomes all the more difficult. These obstacles, however, challenge us in ways that promote spiritual and religious growth—even more so in the aftermath of COVID-19 as we attempt to connect once more with the world around us.

How to Share Your Faith with Your Family

To share your faith with the world around you, begin by inviting those closest to you to share in your love of Christ. Whether it be your spouse or your children, there are several ways to share your faith with your family that are both engaging and fulfilling, allowing you strengthen your own faith while introducing the love of God to the people you care most about.

Each week, set aside time to bond with your family members, perhaps around your living area after dinner or, if you have young children, before bedtime.

Some additional ideas to share your faith with your family include the following:
• Reading and studying the Bible as a family
• Attending virtual mass or group devotions
• Praying before family meals

How to Share Your Faith with Members of the Community

Sharing your faith with your community is the first step toward building a more unified group of people within the church and outside of it.

In order to communicate most effectively with your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in your community, approach each conversation with an open mindset. Never proceed with the attempt to convert the beliefs of someone—rather, you should share the universal principles that drive us as Catholics to become better citizens and, more generally, better people.

In addition to prayer, reading Catholic books encourages thinking and contemplation beyond the Bible, further expanding our understanding of the religious and secular worlds and how they relate to each other. By reading about the stories and perspectives of other faithful, we are able to grow in our love of Christ so that we may better share our faith with others.

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Preparing Your Spirit for Holy Week and Easter Sunday

The weeks leading up to Easter Sunday are a holy period that invites you to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and revel in the love of our family and closest friends. This year, our Easter celebrations must happen a bit differently.

However, it’s still important to prepare your spirit for the holiday, even more so in today’s world. Below are a few simple ways to bring yourself closer to Christ during this holy time.

Actively Participate in Holy Week

Not only is it an obligation for Catholics, but Holy Week is the perfect opportunity to prepare your spirit for Easter Sunday. Actively engaging in the following Holy Week practices with your loved ones will prepare your spirit to accept Christ’s sacrifice and love for us into our lives in the difficult months to come.

Make an Effort to Attend Mass

Depending on your location, attend either a virtual or in-person mass, either by yourself or with a family member. (Don’t forget to remain socially distanced!) If you’re not comfortable with attending a mass in person, there are a number of free online resources you can use to find a virtual mass to pray and reflect this year, such as the Online Mass Finder by Tabella.

Read Relevant Bible Passages Carefully

The gospel is a comforting and illuminating source of light and comfort for us as we navigate difficult situations and dark periods. Below are a few passages for you to reflect on as you prepare to celebrate Christ and his return.

Matthew 28:1–10:

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Ephesians 2:4–7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved ), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Genesis 22:9–14:

“In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”

Being Grateful in 2021

However you choose to celebrate, keep Christ and his life in your thoughts as you prepare your spirit to accept the Lord’s love and forgiveness, which we need now more than ever.

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The Flying Classroom is Landing at Our Schools

Captain Barrington Irving is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the being the youngest pilot and first black man to fly solo around the world. He was born in Jamaica and raised in Miami where he was a stand-out football player until a pilot that was a mentor challenged Barrington to try flying.

Captain Irving started Flying Classroom to expand the STEM+ curriculum that was available to schools. With specialized expedition leaders zooming into the classrooms twice a week the students get to work through engineering design projects that come in a special kit provided by the Flying Classroom. Each class will get an expedition lesson with embedded activities. Each expedition lesson also has a career connection component to help students learn about the STEM+ professional that is involved.

We have 3 schools that through a special grant are getting a chance to experience these STEM+ activities first-hand, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, Saints Joachim and Anne and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in South Ozone Park. The Kindergarten through 2nd grade classes will be learning about aerobatic flight school, the Bionic Chef and animal conservation. The 3rd through 5th grade will have the chance to dive into honey bees, water hydrodynamics and regenerative medicine. While the 6th through 8th grade will be tackling the world of sustainable cities, weather and flight plans and the Orbis Flying Hospital.

Captain Irving will also be setting up a Family STEM+ night where the students will bring special kits home and then the family can join a Zoom session to have a learning experience together on the topic of HALO jumps.


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Winter Reflection: Learning from Looking Back:

Reflection is so important to the growth of any child, but especially after the unprecedented events of last year and the beginning of 2021. After such a troubling year, your child needs your support and warmth, but these conversations can be difficult.

You may be experiencing feelings of anxiety yourself, and it’s not often very easy to communicate your reassurances to your child in ways that are both meaningful and helpful. However, there are ways to make starting a dialogue of reflection with your child less painful for both of you.

How to Speak with Your Child about Difficult Topics and Emotions

Asking Questions

In the best of circumstances, talking about emotions is a frightening prospect for so many people, and this doesn’t exclude parents. One of the simplest and most effective ways to reflect on the events of 2020 is to begin by asking children questions to prompt their thinking and encourage thoughtful responses. Below are a few to get you started.

1. What is the most important lesson you learned last year?
2. What were the biggest challenges to overcome? Which were the easiest?
3. What was your least favorite moment of 2020? Which was the best?
4. What skills did you learn during lockdown?
5. How have you grown closer with your family?
6. Who do you miss seeing regularly? What don’t you miss about the “normal” world?
7. What has been your favorite thing to do during lockdown?
8. What are you angry about? What are you grateful for?
9. What things about 2020 made you sad? What things made you happy?
10. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Writing Down Thoughts and Feelings

It’s easy for big feelings and emotions to bottle themselves up inside – this can be especially true for children, regardless of their age. To encourage your child to express the overwhelming feelings and emotions that came from surviving such a difficult, emotionally draining year, ask them to explore those issues through writing. Doing so will give your child a creative outlet to express themselves while at the same time reflect on a dark period in his or her young life, all while creating a physical record of their strength and perseverance.

Practicing Togetherness in 2021 and Beyond

However you choose to reflect on 2020 with your child, remember to do so with compassion and understanding. Do your best to always be present for your child, and practice togetherness in the new year as a family to bring yourselves closer together in the months to come.

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Are You Craving Spiritual Growth? 3 Tips for Busy Families

In today’s world, the hustle and bustle of our daily lives can feel overwhelming—so much so that we can lose sight of the things that matter most to us, including our faith. When we and our family’s schedules become too full to incorporate the daily spiritual practices of prayer, reflection, and meditation—elements of our faith that are so central to our lives as Catholics—we begin to weaken our relationship with God.

So, how do we overcome this challenge and make time for God? The secret lies in advanced thinking and planning, and, of course, having the will and determination to succeed in growing spiritually.

Below are three tips for busy families to facilitate spiritual growth and strengthen a relationship with God in busy times of constant movement and responsibility.

View Prayer as an Obligation, Not an Option

As with all other elements of your schedule, your commitment to God is a responsibility, so you should put every effort forth to prioritize your spiritual growth every day. Of course, this is easier said than done. When you begin to slip into the habit of viewing your spiritual growth as an option, you run into the danger of putting your faith on the back burner, causing your relationship with God to weaken. One of the most effective ways at prioritizing your relationship with God and your faith is to start actively viewing prayer and reflection as an obligation—to Christ, your family, and also yourself.

Incorporate Prayer into Everyday Family Practices and Traditions

Our children and partners are beacons of hope and determination, and they can do wonders for reviving a sense of urgency within us toward our faith and spiritual growth. To further strengthen your relationship with God, as well as that of your family, strive to incorporate prayer into everyday family practices. Depending on home life and traditions, this can mean something different to each family, but some traditional examples include praying around the dinner table and before bedtime.

Ask for Forgiveness

Perhaps one of the simplest—and most powerful—tips we can offer is to ask forgiveness from God with every prayer. God understands the reality of today’s world and loves us more for it, and it’s so important to demonstrate our gratitude. When we ask for forgiveness in a profound act of vulnerability, we acknowledge not only our limitations, but also our desire to become better in all aspects of our lives, and especially with regard to our relationship to God.

Go forth with the determination to grow within your faith, and you will open yourself and your family up further to accept all that God’s love has to offer us as His followers.

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Catholic School Week Family Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Families,

For the Diocese of Brooklyn, Catholic Schools Week begins February 8th. This is a joyous celebration in Catholic education, when we take time out of the busy day-to-day schedules, to pause and think about the blessings our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools provide to our families. The celebration this year centers on the theme of “Faith. Excellence. Service.” These are the very tenets our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools are built upon. Our celebration this year will certainly be different, but we still seek to share the qualities that set Catholic education apart. While this year has been exceedingly challenging, it has also highlighted the strength of our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools. Their response to the trials of the past year has set us apart from public, charter, and even other private schools. This year especially, we have so much to be grateful for in our schools, and to the families that form our Catholic Academy and Parish School communities.

It is fitting that faith is the first focus in the theme of Catholic Schools Week, as this is the first focus in the mission of Catholic education, with all areas stemming from the belief in and love of Christ. Families are the first teachers in the faith; not only in their religious practices, but in raising their children with love, respect, and a strong sense of morals. We are fortunate to have classrooms filled with students who have already been shown how to walk-in Jesus’ footsteps. It is through these beginnings that teachers can continue to help students grow in their faith. The strong foundation you have provided for your child will carry them into their adult lives. Students in Catholic schools are more likely to be faithful adults, practicing Catholics, and display strong moral fiber, through involvement and volunteerism. A Catholic school foundation is one that allows the faith to carry into future generations.

Excellence is demonstrated in our schools in ways that extend beyond the traditional scope of academics. Academic excellence shines in our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools, but this is only a piece of the puzzle. Catholic education supports the education of the whole child, with the understanding that academics are strong with music, art, athletics, technology, and STEM initiatives.
Through our incredible teachers, Catholic Academies and Parish Schools can offer a variety of programs, which allow students to have unique learning experiences.

We are immeasurably thankful for the teachers, who have demonstrated their excellence over this past year, through their flexibility in their delivery of instruction. We have been through remote, hybrid, and in-person learning and with each change, our faculty and staff have responded to meet the needs of students and families. The very opening of Catholic Academies and Parish Schools to in-person learning, during this school year speaks volumes to the excellence of our schools and the commitment to providing quality education to all students. I would be remiss not to thank our families for the excellence they have shown in their support of teachers and our schools. Parents and guardians have been tasked with many additional jobs this year, in supporting their child’s education. Without this partnership, academic excellence would be impossible. Our students grow not only through the academic excellence provided by teachers, but also through the support which comes from their homes and families.

It is a unique privilege to serve students and families through Catholic education. Service within Catholic Academies and Parish Schools can be viewed in many ways. It is the service of our teachers to the school community, the service of our families in providing for their children, and it is the way students learn to serve others. Acts 20:35 shares with us …remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive… This spirit of giving is alive in our Catholic Academy and Parish School communities, as students learn, not only to give through material items, during events such as food drives, they also learn the importance of the love they give to others. This is once again a reflection of the foundation provided by their families; for a student to understand that the love they give can change the world. Students who are a part of Catholic education are more likely to demonstrate service through volunteering and community engagement and are also more likely to show their love of others, with an increased openness to differences and embracing of others.

Our schools are blessed with families within their communities who make the sacrifice to send their children to Catholic Academies and Parish Schools. This is not always an easy decision, especially during this school year. The gift of sending a child to a Catholic Academy or Parish School is providing them with a foundation for life through faith, excellence, and service; qualities we see reflected not only in our schools but in the families that comprise our school communities.

Thank you for your continued faith in the mission of Catholic education and for entrusting the most precious gift into our school communities, your children.

Yours in Faith,

Thomas Chadzutko

Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D.
Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services