Catholic schools celebrate successful school year amid the pandemic’s challenges

Bishop David Walkowiak celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew on May 24, 2021.

In thanksgiving for a successful year, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids joined together for a year-end Mass. Since the school year began last August, the 31 Catholic schools in the diocese have prioritized safe in-person instruction and provided remote instruction in situations that required it.

Due to the hard work, determination, careful preparation and perseverance on the part of school leaders, teachers, parents and students, instruction during the pandemic has been successful. More than 95% of preschool through 12th grade students returned for in-person learning, with the remaining students learning remotely. Learning in-person is especially important in Catholic schools, where faith formation activities such as participation in the sacraments, as well as the personal connections among students and teachers, cannot be achieved in the same way remotely. 

As a result, Catholic school students in the diocese continued to demonstrate growth on standardized assessments even during the height of the pandemic. For example, in spring 2021, 8th graders in the Diocese of Grand Rapids achieved higher language usage and science scores than 91% of the other schools taking this national assessment. 

“I am so proud of the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and pastors who didn’t let this time of uncertainty and disruption stand in the way of our important mission,” said David Faber, superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese. “I am in awe of the way we all came together as the Body of Christ. God, in His benevolence, has richly blessed our response with strengthened faith, academic achievement, and growing enrollment as we look toward the 2021-22 school year.”

More than 6,000 students and educators across the diocese prayerfully participated in a livestream of Mass to give thanks for the gift of Catholic school education. Mass was celebrated by Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak, bishop of Grand Rapids, at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew on Monday, May 24. Schools were represented at the Mass by a teacher and their family attending in person and following COVID-19 precautions.

Watch Bishop Walkowiak's homily from this Mass in the video embedded below or at this link. Additionally, browse photos from the Mass below or here.

Mass of Thanksgiving for the Academic Year

Additionally, we are praying a novena on each school day from May 24-June 4, in thanksgiving to our Blessed Mother, Mary, Mother of the Church, for her protection upon completing a full 180-day school year. Please join us in praying this prayer each of those days:

Prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith*

Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

*Prayer to Mary at the conclusion of the Encyclical Lumen Fidei (29 June 2013)

Families can learn more about Catholic schools, including Welcome Scholarships for new preschool and kindergarten students, by visiting

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids are an alliance of 31 vibrant learning communities (26 elementary and five high schools) serving more than 6,000 preschool through 12th grade students throughout West Michigan. Our schools inspire young people to grow in Catholic faith and grace, achieve more in school and life, develop creativity and character, and feel welcomed and cherished for their unique gifts. We partner with parents to awaken the whole child to a world of light and life — that grows better and brighter when children reach their potential.

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