Father Marquette celebrates Catholic Schools Week

MARQUETTE — The second-graders at Father Marquette Elementary School learned more about missionary Bishop Frederic Baraga Tuesday than they probably ever have in their young lives.

It helped that they shot a bow and arrow while learning about him.

Eighth-graders from Father Marquette Middle School made a presentation about Bishop Baraga to the second grade as part of National Catholic Schools Week, which began Jan. 28 and finishes today, with Father Marquette Catholic Academy involved in the celebration.

The national theme is “Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed.”

“It’s a time we celebrate what’s going on in our Catholic schools,” Principal Mary Jo Scamperle said.

Throughout the week, Father Marquette conducted different activities each day, focusing on things like community, vocations, family and the nation.

Scheduled were events like a sledding trip to Al Quaal Recreation Area; a lunch honoring its priests, who were to talk about that vocation; and sixth-graders serving dinner at Room at the Inn, for which there also was to be a supply drive, Scamperle said.

Eighth-graders Seiler Hruska and Grace Souza made the presentation about Slovenian native Bishop Baraga, who died in 1868.

“Bishop Baraga had a talent for learning new languages, but one must wonder what he did with this talent,” Hruska said. “The answer is he devoted his life to the natives of the Upper Peninsula area of Michigan.

“Baraga used his skills to teach them about God and the Catholic faith. He affected many people in his teachings, and once he became bishop, Baraga was called the ‘Father of the U.P.’ People came to truly love the person he was.”

Hruska made her talk interactive as well. After mentioning Bishop Baraga’s mother taught him to pray often, she asked the youngsters: “Do your parents help you learn to pray?”

The answers were in the affirmative; one girl said she even recited the rosary.

Hruska said that even though Bishop Baraga encountered difficult travel conditions in the U.P., he always reached his destination.

“Have you guys ever gotten stuck anywhere because the traveling conditions were so bad?” Hruska asked the class.

One girl answered: “I got ran in a ditch.”

Another boy noted the Mackinac Bridge had to be closed recently because of ice falling.

Bishop Baraga, though, had it particularly tough.

“It took him days, sometimes weeks, just to arrive at someone’s house, and once he got there, he began to preach to them immediately,” Hruska said, plus temperatures could drop below zero in an instant.

Thus, Bishop Baraga found a better way to travel: snowshoeing, although she noted his favorite mode of transportation was horseback riding.

“The snowshoes allowed him to walk on the snow rather than sinking every step,” Hruska said.

Bishop Baraga eventually became known as the “snowshoe priest.”

Souza said the natives taught him how to hunt and live as they did. Prey included deer, ducks, fish and rabbits.

Again, moving from one place to the next was mentioned.

“To navigate when they traveled, Bishop Baraga and his missionary friends used compasses so they wouldn’t get lost in a storm,” Souza said. “Do you guys know what a compass is?”

They did, but an actual compass was shown to them anyway.

The presentation became even more interactive when the students got to shoot a bow and arrow — the arrow being made of a soft material, of course — at a small skunk toy.

Father Marquette Catholic Academy is composed of Little Eagles — its preschool and pre-kindergarten program for youngsters ages 3 and 4 — and the elementary school for pre-K to fourth grade, both located at 500 S. Fourth St., Marquette. The middle school for students in grades 5-8 is located at 414 W. College Ave., Marquette.

“We consider that we educate the whole child intellectually, spiritually, and that our smaller size allows us to really have a close relationship with the students and their families,” Scamperle said.

The student enrollment for Father Marquette Catholic Academy is 129, she said.

The Catholic faith, of course, is important at Father Marquette, but Scamperle pointed out it’s not an “add-on class” but woven through the curriculum. What’s also taught in the system, she said, is the idea of service to the community.

According to the website at www.fathermarquette.org, the school curriculum offers the core subjects like math, science, language arts, religion and social studies along with art, music and physical education. The middle school also includes chorus, band, forensics and multimedia technology.

Scamperle said it’s the belief at the academy that parents are the students’ primary educators.

“We partner with parents in that important role,” Scamperle said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.