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Celebrating National Catholic Schools Week with pen pals!

Each year, National Catholic Schools Week starts on the last Sunday in January. This year, it begins on Sunday, Jan. 29, and concludes on Saturday, Feb. 4.

National Catholic Schools Week is celebrated on an annual basis to promote the education that comes from attending a Catholic school. The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, have a rich history in education. And while many sisters no longer teach in the classroom, their love of education has never waned.

Recently, Lisa Eilbracht, a third-grade teacher at Saint Patrick School in Terre Haute, reached out to Sister Joni Luna, SP, who formerly ministered at the school as a teacher, athletic director and vice principal. Sister Joni said Lisa was interested in putting together a pen pal project with students and Sisters of Providence.

Sister Jan Craven, SP, with her pen pal, Saint Patrick School student Emily Mascari

“I’ve known Lisa from the five years I spent at Saint Patrick School,” Sister Joni said. “She often attends Taizé ecumenical prayer services.”

The project has exploded, as now 42 Sisters of Providence and Chaplain Father Terry Johnson all correspond with students regularly.

“The sisters really enjoy getting to know the children,” Sister Joni said. “One shared with me that she came home from a long day at work feeling pretty exhausted. As she flipped through her mail, she found her pen pal letter. She was immediately filled with joy.

“Another sister said her pen pal is the ‘sweetest girl on the planet!’”

Sister Joni remarked other sisters said they are “delighted” by how creative the students are in addition to how they are so adept at expressing themselves.

During the Congregation’s annual Christmas Fun at the Woods event, many of the students visited Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to meet with their pen pal for the first time.

“I have noticed the project has generated a lot of positive conversations around here,” Sister Joni said. “It has been a true gift of writing a simple letter every other month to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to meet the sisters.”

Lisa added the students get extremely excited when they receive their letters.

“They even look for ways to send a small gift to brighten their day,” she commented. “The letters they receive are kept in a special folder in their desks. It is endearing to see that relationships can grow between these generations.”

Furthering the Mission

Sister Joni said the project only helps further the mission and legacy of the Sisters of Providence.

“I believe this project has fostered positive intergenerational relationships with our neighbors,” Sister Joni said. “It has helped our sisters develop positive relationships with the youth, and for some, it has alleviated the propensity for social isolation.

“I want to thank each and every sister and Father Terry for answering the call to connect with these students. Our sisters’ commitment to continuing the mission and legacy of our foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, is still alive and flourishing at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence. This is Providence. This is what the Sisters of Providence strive for each day, to make a difference. “

Teenagers interested in joining Sister Joni’s Teen Volunteer ministry should contact her at jluna@spsmw.org or at 361-500-9505.

National Catholic Schools Week

2023 Theme – Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.

January 29 – February 4

Daily Themes:

  • Sunday, January 29 – Celebrating Your Parish
  • Monday, January 30 – Celebrating Your Community
  • Tuesday, January 31 – Celebrating Your Students
  • Wednesday, February 1 – Celebrating the Nation
  • Thursday, February 2 – Celebrating Vocations
  • Friday, February 3 – Celebrating Faculty, Staff and Volunteers
  • Saturday, February 4 – Celebrating Families

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Jason Moon

Jason Moon

Jason Moon serves as media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence. Previously, he spent more than 16 years in the newspaper industry.

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  1. Avatar Annette Maggio, PA on January 26, 2023 at 9:11 am

    I think this is a wonderful way to reach out to children. Letter/ note writing has always been something I enjoy as a way of communicating and sharing with others. Maybe S.Joni might want to see if any of the Associates would want to be a Pen Pal ✍🏻 I would love to send notes from Chicago 👍 Keep up the great work of St. Mother Theodore, S. Joni ! Peace, Annette Maggio

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