By Kenneth J. Souza
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The nearly 300 students enrolled at Holy Family-Holy Name School in New Bedford kicked off the new academic year last week with a celebration mimicking the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.
Dubbed the “Holympics,” the event included a procession of students into the auditorium, led by assistant principal Ralph Tripp, carrying a torch that had been lit from a Paschal candle on the school’s front steps by Father Robert Powell, parochial administrator of St. Lawrence Martyr Parish.
“The Olympic Torch is a widely-recognized symbol of the Olympic Games,” explained Sister Muriel Lebeau, SS.CC., Faith Formation coordinator for the school. “In ancient Greece, a fire was lit at the opening ceremony. As we pass the torch, let it be a reminder of how we are to be lights for Christ as we begin the race of our educational life.”
Once assembled in the auditorium, which had been turned into a makeshift “Holympic Stadium” for the day, the students were grouped by teams, so designated by colorful T-shirts and pennants bearing the motto: “Champions for Christ.” The blue team consisted of grades seven and eight; the green team, grades five and six; the yellow team, grades three and four; the orange team, grades one and two; and the red team, grades P3, P4 and kindergarten.
The five teams also aligned with the five rings in the “Holympic” logo, suggesting that everyone must also work together to achieve success.
“Remember: There’s no ‘I’ in team; it’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘we,’” Sister Muriel said. “A team beats with one heart — we need each other, we need teamwork.”
After Tripp entered the stadium, flanked by two students dressed in period togas in homage to the Olympics of ancient Greece, he lit a brazier on stage as principal Cecilia M. Felix approached the microphone.
“I officially declare the Holy Family-Holy Name Holympics Training to be ‘Champions for Christ’ for the 2016 school year now open,” Felix said, eliciting applause. “You are here for a purpose: to get a good, quality Catholic education and to train to become champions for Christ. Our Head Coach is here with us always. Our Head Coach is Jesus Christ, the greatest of all Champions. Your teachers and staff will be your team managers and personal trainers for the year. Follow their rules, and you’ll be a winner.”
Maintaining the sports analogy, Felix went on to suggest how just as athletes require extensive training, so will all of the students throughout the year.
“Did you know that in every sport the coach has a game plan for players to follow if they want to be champions and winners? So learn the rules and follow them,” she said. “It’s important for athletes to train hard and play every game with their best effort and with excellence.”
Bracketed by songs including the theme “Champions for Christ” and “What Would Jesus Do?” the opening ceremonies also included an explanation of the five colored “Holympic” rings:
— Red is for excellence. Aiming for excellence is when you give your very best effort every time. When we don’t practice excellence in our faith, we miss out on all the things God has prepared for us.
— White is for prudence. Prudence means being able to know the difference between right and wrong and choosing the right thing. A person who practices prudence will try to do what Jesus would do. It’s good to ask: “What would Jesus do?”
— Blue is for fortitude. Fortitude means standing up for what’s right and not being afraid to show our faith, to be strong. Sometimes we may feel like giving up, but we need to remember every situation is a chance to grow.
— Gold is for temperance. Temperance means doing things in a proper, balanced way and controlling your behavior. If you have trouble remembering what temperance means, just remember that “temper” is short for temperance. When you practice the virtue of temperance, you have great self-control and you don’t lose your temper.
— Green is for justice. Justice means being fair in everything you do and to give what is right to God and others. When we practice justice, people feel loved and valued.
According to Sister Muriel, who organized the event, the program is based on Catholic Chat’s “Cathletics” summer program, which she had to revise a bit for Holy Family-Holy Name School’s needs.
“We did it seven years ago, but this is all new again this year,” she told The Anchor. “We brought it back because we think it’s important to train to be champions for Christ. This is a program for the whole year, and each month we’re going to focus on different themes.”
Sister Muriel said upcoming themes will include a Rosary Walk in October; a Saints Alive/Superheroes program in November; a Charity Run in December; Prayer Push-Ups in honor of Respect Life in January; Body Builders, Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer for Lent in February; Prayer for Vocations (Quo Vadis) in March; a version of Religion Jeopardy for April; and a “Walk Like a Champion” Walk-a-thon in May. There will also be a closing awards ceremony scheduled for June.
“This is a wonderful celebration to kick off the school year,” Dr. Michael S. Griffin, superintendent of schools for the Fall River Diocese, told students during the opening ceremony. “What a great theme of the Olympics — and I think of all of you as Olympians, striving to be the very best people that Jesus calls you to be. It’s certainly an inspiring way to start the year and I want you to know that we’re very proud of you, your teachers, and your leaders.”