As our parish school nears its 150th birthday (2023), I would like to take a moment to reflect back on our roots. St. John the Evangelist School was the first Catholic school in Jackson and among the first in Michigan. The opening day of school was September 15, 1873 when four IHM (Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) sisters enrolled 200 students. During those early decades, the school was staffed almost entirely by religious sisters and there was no need for tuition. (It’s interesting to note that by the mid-sixties when I was in Catholic grade school, tuition was only $100 per year!)
Nowadays, it is rare to find a religious sister in a Catholic school classroom. Maintenance costs for midcentury school buildings are sometimes overwhelming. Additionally, today’s families do not always see faith-based education as a priority. Overall enrollment at Catholic schools has seen a dramatic decline in the past twenty or so years. Although this paints a rather bleak picture, I would like to assure you that there is nothing bleak about the beautiful things that are happening down the street at our parish school!
Due, in part, to your incredible generosity and support, our parish school provides quality Catholic education for 167 K-6 students, and 43 preschool-aged children. Many of today’s school parents attended St. John School themselves; some of the young children in our classrooms are third and fourth generation Gaels. What a wonderful legacy! Daily prayer and religious instruction, weekly Mass, Sacramental preparation, virtue and character building, and monthly Adoration provide a firm spiritual foundation for our students. Even our littlest preschool saints are involved with outreach and service projects that positively impact our community and our world.
With a goal of helping every child reach their full potential, we provide enrichment opportunities and remedial accommodations for our students. As a result, our NWEA math and reading scores show significant individual and collective gains from fall to spring, and our test scores in all areas remain well above national and local norms. Last year, SJS was awarded Emerald Status for our Green School initiative, received recognition from the State of Michigan for our Health and Wellness Program, and earned praise for our focus on STEM activities.
The faculty and staff at St. John School humbly recognize our responsibility to continue what was begun nearly 150 years ago. While our teachers work for far less than what they could make in a similar public school position, we do so because we, too, believe in the value of Catholic education in today’s world – especially in today’s world. We also believe that the future of our Catholic Church is sitting in the classrooms of Catholic schools today. In fact, two of our former SJS students: Sr. Faith Marie (Emily) Woolsey – Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, and Bro. Joseph DeAgostino, CSC – Congregation of Holy Cross, are now following the call to religious life. And, two others, Katie Prevost and Allie Slough, are serving as FOCUS missionaries, working on university campuses to help young adults to maintain and grow in their Catholic faith during the critical college years.
We want you to know how very much we appreciate the fact that our St. John Parish family takes seriously the shared responsibility to continue to provide high -quality, faith-based education for families who desire this for their children. Your weekly offertory contributions help us to meet the expenses that tuition and fundraising alone cannot and do not cover. Because of you, we are able to continue the rich tradition of Catholic education here.
We invite you to join us for our weekly Friday 9:00 a.m. school Mass where the children’s enthusiastic praying and singing are sure to fill your spirit. We also invite you take a closer look at our amazing school. I am happy to set up a time for you to take a tour to see first-hand the beauty of St. John School–where faith and family meet academic excellence!
Again, we thank you for your continued monetary and prayerful support. Your generosity to the Witness to Hope campaign has made it possible to repave the school parking lots last summer and to begin replacing windows at the school in the future. These are two areas of extreme need that are being addressed because of YOU! May God continue to bless you as you bless all of us at St. John School.