Magazine article Momentum

El Paso Catholic Schools Host Historical Tour for National Catholic Schools Week

Magazine article Momentum

El Paso Catholic Schools Host Historical Tour for National Catholic Schools Week

Article excerpt

School tours highlighted the contributions of generous educators, parents, volunteers and benefactors who have shared so much throughout the years

Each year, National Catholic Schools Week is celebrated in the Diocese of El Paso schools with beautiful celebrations that include Masses, open houses, thank-you breakfasts and special performances. This year's Catholic Schools Week in the city of El Paso, however, took a different approach.

With a week-long celebration focused on Catholic education, the Office of Education saw the week as an opportunity to reach out to more than current Catholic school students and parents.

In planning diocesan-wide events for the week, a few goals were outlined:

* Increase knowledge and awareness of each Catholic school among current parents and students;

* Increase knowledge and awareness of each Catholic school among potential parents and students, and

* Increase knowledge and awareness of Catholic education to the general Catholic population in the Diocese of El Paso.

With these goals in mind, we planned events that would draw people into the schools that they would not otherwise have a reason to visit. We wanted to showcase the rich history, strong academics and Catholic identity by inviting people in to experience interesting and fun events.

We planned movie nights, a young Catholic professionals networking event and our first Catholic Schools Information Fair. But one event, in particular, captured the interest of people of all ages-the Catholic Schools Historical Bus Tour.

The Diocese of El Paso includes 11 Catholic schools. Four of the oldest were built in the 1920s within a few miles of each other and all are still in existence. With many Catholic schools closing throughout the country, it is easy to focus on the struggles Catholic schools face. A tour that allowed people to set foot into these four oldest schools, however, gave Catholics in the community an opportunity to focus on the elements that have permitted each school to exist for so long with the grace of God.

Planning the Tour

Planning began in early December by meeting with all four schools. With input from each school, it was decided that a three-hour event on a Sunday afternoon would give each school time for a 30-minute tour along with time for a chartered bus to drive from school to school.

Attendance was limited to 45 spots and reservations were taken beginning in January. We advertised the event in parish bulletins, Catholic schools, parish religious formation programs and the local paper. The response was outstanding. By the day of the tour, our bus was completely full and more people followed the bus in their own cars.

The long histories of the schools would give each the potential to conduct an all-day tour. However, to avoid overloading the visitors with too much information, we chose to include a "quick facts" sheet on the schools in goody bags, along with other school mementos. This allowed the tour guides to hit on the highlights of the schools' histories without worrying about leaving out something important.

The Tour

Everyone met at Cathedral High School, where alumni gave the first tour and told stories of how they remembered playing basketball in the "old gym," being taught by the Christian Brothers and paying only $15 a month for tuition. Because the school is located next to St. Patrick Cathedral School, it was convenient to have these two schools as our first and last stops of the tour.

After an alumni-led tour at Cathedral High, tourists packed the bus and headed to St. Joseph School. On the bus ride to St. Joseph, they heard an overview of Catholic education in the Diocese of El Paso. …

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