The Catholic Commentator 

A week full of smiles, celebrations, awards and prayers marked Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. In some church parishes, students wore their school uniforms to weekend Mass while other schools encouraged students to dress as their favorite saints, and still others held open houses and daily activities. 

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Bishop Robert W. Muench distributes Communion during Mass at St. George Church for Catholic Schools Week. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

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After the special Mass, the Catholic Schools Office gave Bishop Muench a scrapbook featuring all of the schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. This is Bishop Muench’s final Catholic Schools Week as bishop since submitting his letter of resignation to Pope Francis as required by canon law. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

It was also a week of good-byes, send-offs and final messages as Bishop Robert W. Muench celebrated perhaps what was likely his last Catholic Schools Week as bishop. On his 75th birthday in December, the bishop turned in his letter of resignation to Pope Francis.  

At The Distinguished Graduate Awards dinner, held at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel on Jan. 29 and sponsored by the Catholic Schools Office of the diocese, the CSO surprised the bishop with a video featuring students from each of the 31 Catholic schools. Most of the messages were wishes of a happy retirement and thanks for his service through the years. Others were humorous with students telling knock-knock jokes (a favorite of Bishop Muench) and advice on what to do in retirement, including going to the beach, snorkeling and becoming pope, to the delight of the bishop and the audience of students, alumni, clergy and school administrators.  

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St. John Primary and St. Theresa Middle honor law enforcement and firefighters during Catholic Schools Week with prayer service and sweets. Photo provided by Teresa Landry | St. John Primary/St. Theresa Middle School

 

In his remarks at the banquet, the bishop thanked those attending for making the “sacrifice and investment in Catholic schools.”  

“It’s getting harder and harder to maintain them (Catholic schools) because it’s costly,” said the bishop. “But, those who make the sacrifices, I sometimes tell, especially at the high school level students, your parents are affording you a Catholic school education. They are foregoing a nice wonderful car in their driveway, one they could even use, but they are sacrificing that because they are making an investment in you.”  

The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week was “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.,” to focus on the important spiritual, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  

The week also included a special Catholic Schools Week Mass at St. George Church in Baton Rouge celebrated by Bishop Muench, along with 14 members of the clergy from the diocese. Principals and their school’s student representatives carried gifts and donations for Catholic Charities, of the Diocese of Baton Rouge to the altar.  

“Students, you are privileged to be in a Catholic school, where each day you work on faith and morals,” said Dr. Melanie Verges, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, to the congregation of students, administrators and parents. “You are able to participate in service projects, helping others in need, which teaches you about the great gift of charity. You have the ability to take leadership roles in classrooms, clubs and on the playing field or court. Learning, serving and leading will help you to succeed now and in the future.”  

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 Members of the choir at St. George School in Baton Rouge performed during a special Mass at St. George Church, celebrating Catholic Schools Week in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

During his homily, Bishop Muench also stressed the importance of a Catholic education.  

“I want you to realize how fortunate you are that you are in a Catholic school because great sacrifices have been made by your parents and others for you to get a Catholic education, which doesn’t just teach you about your personal and private life, and doesn’t just teach you about the world, but teaches you about the Almighty: God; that teaches you that while you live in time right now, that’s why we wear watches or have cell phones that tell us the time, but that you’re preparing to live an eternity,” he said.  

The bishop also told the students that “God is calling on you to make a difference.”  

“You are important to your schools. You are important to the Church. You are important to God,” he said. 

At the conclusion of the Mass, Dr. Verges presented Bishop Muench with a special gift from the Catholic Schools Office, a scrapbook with a page from each school and a donation of $15,000 “for a very happy retirement.” 

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Awards for 2018 Distinguished Clergy, Administrator and Teacher were handed out during the special Mass. Pictured, from left, Bishop Robert W. Muench, Brother Ray Hebert, Gay Hebert, Dr. Anna Bourgeois and Dr. Melanie Verges, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the diocese. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator