From the moment children walk into our church and school, our youngest disciples are encountering our Good Shepherd and learning to hear His voice.
Early Childhood participants spend time weekly in the atrium where our staff has been trained in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Elementary School students study from the Faith and Life series, and Middle School students receive additional enrichment with Theology of the Body for Middle Schoolers, and Chosen: Journey Toward Confirmation.
In addition to doctrinal formation which is provided daily, students in the school participate in Mass twice a week, and monthly liturgical celebrations for the major solemnities and feasts of the Church calendar. Students' moral sense is strengthened throughout the day with our virtue program, and they are given regular opportunities to practically live out heroic virtue as they organize and participate in service projects.
Faith formation continues after our students graduate, with many opportunities to engage with the parish and the archdiocese. Just like the first followers of Jesus, all the members of St. Isaac Jogues are committed to ongoing discipleship.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read about the nascent Church – our forefathers in Christian living. The opening scene is not very promising, as we see the Apostles huddled together in the upper room, fearful and waiting. The Risen Lord has left them, and though He promised that He would send them the power of the Holy Spirit to "teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you," (John 14:26) they are uncertain about what this means. Then the day of Pentecost arrives and, with the rush of a mighty wind and the outpouring of tongues of fire, the Apostles are propelled forth to spread the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. All of these men would ultimately lay down their lives for this message, so deeply had it affected their being.
Now, you are probably asking yourself, “What do the Apostles have to do with a Catholic elementary school?” The answer is everything. Here at St. Isaac Jogues, we work daily to re-live this Pentecost experience. Born from an authentic relationship with Christ, the members of the St. Isaac Jogues Community strive for excellence in faith, academics, and virtuous living. Just as the early Church “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42), so do our faculty, students and families strive to live each day.
The Teachings (academics)
Since that day of Pentecost, the Church has been filled with the conviction that the God of truth has revealed Himself to mankind both through His word and through His world. For over 2,000 years this conviction has fueled countless Christians and led to a veritable explosion of learning as man seeks to better understand the God who has given us life and rebirth in Christ Jesus. Through thousands of poets, authors, scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and historians, right down to our own students at St. Isaac Jogues, we bear a passion for learning born from an encounter with the God of truth. Our school is staffed with highly qualified teachers in every classroom who approach learning with passion and conviction. Students are challenged daily to question and explore the world around them through a variety of rigorous, engaging and hands on curricula. Each classroom is outfitted with interactive technology, and we recently added a state of the art science lab to further enhance student learning. Equipped with problem solving and critical thinking skills, we confidently send our students forth to bring the light of truth into all areas of today’s world.
Communal Life (virtuous living)
In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he reminds us, “If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (13:2). From the beginning, the Church has recognized that learning is of no value if it does not transform us from within. Our lives are not merely for book knowledge; in order for there to be full human flourishing, there must be growth in the heart as well. Therefore, at St. Isaac Jogues we strive daily to build up our community through daily growth in virtuous living. All our students are formed in the traditional habits of excellence laid out by Plato and Aristotle which are then discussed and applied through the lens of grace. In the person of Christ, we are not only given the model par excellence for virtuous living, but we also receive the grace and strength to live heroically virtuous lives. Along with learning about virtue, students are engaged in designing personalized virtue plans. In addition, our days begin and end with reflecting on virtue, and daily opportunities for deliberate acts of virtue are afforded to every student. As our students are formed in discipleship and excellent living, they are given the courage to transform the world through their leadership and example.
Breaking of the Bread (faith)
In John’s Gospel, he gives us the memorable quote from Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6). As Catholics we all know that Jesus is the answer to the longing of every human heart. It is He who reveals to us the identity of our Heavenly Father, and it is He who fully reveals man to himself (John 14:9, Gaudium et Spes 22). For this reason, Jesus is truly at the heart of all that we do at St. Isaac Jogues. Drawing from the deep well of our Catholic heritage, children and adults alike are given daily opportunities to encounter Christ and to grow in relationship with Him. Students are formed in the teachings of our Faith through a rigorous religion curriculum and come together to worship and be nourished at the Mass twice weekly. There are also regular opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, other forms of liturgical prayer and personal prayer. It is through these frequent encounters with Christ that we are filled with the energy and drive to go forth and be lights to a world shrouded in darkness.
One of the greatest gifts that Jesus left to His apostles, aside from His own abiding Spirit, was the gift of community. The fact that He formed His first followers into a brotherhood teaches us that God Himself finds community to be good. At St. Isaac Jogues, we are seriously committed to building up our family within the school and in the wider parish community. Students frequently work with one another across grade levels, parents are encouraged to volunteer in the building throughout the day, and we are always looking for new ways to build fellowship and unity. Here at St. Isaac’s, you can find a family that cares for and supports one another through prayer, outreach, and encounter. Though it is challenging to manage a family of several hundred people, we find it worth every moment to see the witness of authentic Christian brotherhood as we work together to transform our local community and the world.
Though Christ is the teacher of all our classrooms, He is present in a special way for our students preparing to receive the Sacraments. Our Second and Eighth Graders spend much of their year preparing their minds and hearts to encounter Jesus and His Holy Spirit in these most profound ways.
Second Grade First Reconciliation and First Communion
At Baptism, we are freed from sin and reborn as sons and daughters of God, becoming truly incorporated into the Church. Yet the faith received at baptism still needs to develop and mature. Additionally, baptism does not erase the inclination to sin. Thus, in order to grow in faith and awaken the realization of the necessity of God’s great love and mercy, our Second Grade prepares for two great sacraments of love: Reconciliation and First Communion. In these two sacraments, we are given the strength to live the life of virtue and to tangibly meet Christ through forgiveness and communion.
To prepare for the sacrament of Reconciliation, our students approach the sacrament relying on their strong foundation in virtue. Since the students have now reached the age of reason, they are beginning to see that while they may know what a virtue “sounds like” or “looks like”, they do not always choose to practice it. Already they have the realization that sins not only hurt themselves, but ultimately their relationship with Christ. Therefore, preparation for this sacrament involves much joy – the student realizes that they can have great confidence in God’s complete forgiveness and they will be given the strength not to sin again. During the time of preparation, the students study in great detail the parable of the Prodigal Son, the numerous healings (of body and soul!) of Jesus, and saints who have experienced God’s love in a particular way in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Preparation for First Communion is truly the highlight of Second Grade. Once the students have received the graces of Reconciliation, they are eager to receive Jesus. The class learns about this great mystery of our faith by studying the Old Testament roots of the sacrament, the institution of the sacrament at the Last Supper, and the many saints and miracles of the Eucharist. Ultimately, the Second Grade class prepares for their First Communion by spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration or making class visits to Him during the school day. It is in deepening their relationship with Christ that the students become prepared to receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity on their First Communion day.
Eighth Grade Confirmation
Confirmation is often thought of as a Rite of Passage, whereby the Confirmandi cross over from childhood to adults within the Church. However, a more accurate description of Confirmation is the "Sacrament of Discipleship," whereby we are united all the more closely to Christ in order to follow Him and learn His ways. When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, we receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit that binds us more perfectly to the Church and enriches us with a special strengthening to make us true witnesses of Christ, able to spread and defend the Faith in word and deed (cf. CCC 1285).
To prepare for this special Sacrament, our Eighth Grade students participate in a year-long program of formation. Each week students watch and discuss video presentations provided by Ascension Press' Chosen program. Scattered throughout the year are "retreat classes" where students are able to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or to discuss with one another the challenges of daily discipleship in the 21st Century. Students also interact with faithful Catholics from varied walks of life to learn the many ways in which the Spirit calls people to serve (from Brothers and Sisters of various religious communities to laity in high profile jobs, such as actor David Henrie). A high point of the Eighth Grade preparations for Confirmation is the trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March for Life each January. This experience, more than any other, helps prepare our students to become virtuous and faithful Catholics in the modern world.
For many of us, the activities and hobbies that we are passionate about were inspired in us by a great teacher who shared this love. Think about your favorite teacher in elementary school who gave you a great love for reading, a fascination with science or a passion for politics. Students are inspired by people who teach what they love. Similarly, students are stirred to pursue intellectual and moral greatness by imitating those who love knowledge and truth.
For Christians, our perfect teacher of knowledge and truth is none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ; and to be formed in His teaching is to walk as His disciple. The Disciple of Christ: Education in Virtue program is designed to help educators form their students in the language and practice of daily Christian virtue. As we become alive in virtue, Christ is formed within us, and we become the saints He desires us to be. As Jesus reminded His first disciples: "If you abide in me and my words abide in you... you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples" (John 15:7-8).
More information on the virtue program implemented at St. Isaac Jogues can be found at the Education in Virtue website.