Berkshire schools celebrate Catholic Schools Week


St. Joseph Central High School Dean of Students Lillian Quinn pointed toward the rear windows of the parish hall.

"You see that porch over there?" Quinn said, noting the view of the neighboring St. Joseph rectory.

"The sisters used to sit out there in big rocking chairs watching the students by day. At night, after school, the kids used to sit with them and talk. Sometimes I wonder what happened to those days," Quinn said.

Indeed, Catholic school systems nationwide have seen some change over the years, from declining enrollment and fewer teaching nuns, to changes in school uniforms. But it seems some school traditions and activities will never change.

On Wednesday, Ralph and Mary Lou Decker attended a community breakfast offered for free at the St. Joseph Parish Hall, as part of a Catholic Schools Week celebration. The Deckers sent their two eldest children to the school.

"I remember coming here for one's basketball games and another was always in the school plays," Mary Lou Decker said.

During the meal, their server was St. Joe high school senior Reagan Smith, who, like the Decker children, plays basketball and is in school plays.

"I told her we'd have to make sure we come back for the spring play. I'm so impressed to see this place and how it's grown," said Mary Lou Decker.

All five of Berkshire County's Catholic schools -- St. Agnes Academy in Dalton, St. Joe, St. Mark School in Pittsfield, St. Mary's School in Lee, and St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Adams -- are having their own celebrations this week, in addition to having celebrated Mass together on Tuesday.

Local enrollment seems to be holding steady, with nearly 700 students attending countywide from pre-kindergarten through Grade 12.

St. Mark and St. Agnes will hold open house programs today, at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.

Activities range from community service to bingo to bowling and meeting surprise visitors. St. Stan's also held a unique mission statement contest.

"[The kids] look forward to this week so much. There's a great camaraderie, especially between the big kids and the little kids," said St. Mark School Principal Meg Skowron, noting that the grades don't often get to work together.

"It was nice at Mass yesterday. I didn't realize how many younger kids were in Catholic school," said St. Joseph senior Kendall Smith.

She and fellow seniors Gabby Schnopp, Virginia Goggins and Emylee Carnevale, all of whom served food at Wednesday's breakfast, said they've noticed changes over the years in how Catholic Schools Week is presented.

"I think there's more giving than in past years. It's more about helping people," Goggins said.

St. Agnes' new student council is campaigning to support the Sheltering Wings Orphanage in Burkina Faso, Africa.

At St. Mary's School, students participate in a "Super Bowl of Caring," a nonperishable food drive. Each student is also writing a personal goal and discussing with their families in tandem with this year's national Catholic Schools Week theme, "Raise the Standards."

To reach Jenn Smith:,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

Berkshire Catholic school enrollment

Saint Agnes Academy (Dalton): 146 students, pre-K through Grade 8

St. Joseph Central High School (Pittsfield): 175 students, grades 9 through 12

St. Mark School (Pittsfield): 93 students, pre-K through Grade 8

St. Mary's School (Lee): 128, pre-K through Grade 8

St. Stanislaus Kostka School (Adams): 131, pre-K through Grade 8

Total Catholic school student enrollment: 673

*2012-13 school year


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