By Lennon Audrain

Ninety-three thousand. That number is the number of students who have received scholarship support from Catholic Education Arizona since 1998. It is an incredible number; we are grateful for both the support we get and for the opportunity to provide the support that we do. And this is the week that we get to celebrate the generous contributions that have made this possible.

Many schools in our diocese kicked off this week on Sunday by hosting a school mass and Open House. The parishes that have schools showcased the vast opportunities that their schools are giving students, whether they are dance, art, speech and debate, chess club, and much more.

As I’m sure most of you know, your schools have been celebrating Catholic Schools Week. But it hasn’t just been the Diocese of Phoenix. Catholic Schools Week is a national celebration. Catholic schools are celebrating what they’ve done, what they’re doing, who’s made it all possible.

Catholic Schools across the country are celebrating the vast and unsurpassed accomplishments, from fostering the next generation of leaders to the next generation of doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergymen—the list could go on and on.

The Diocese hosts its annual Spelling Bee, and I had the opportunity to attend last night. The intellect displayed at the event astounding. The champion, Nicholas, comes from St. Theresa and runner-up, Amelia, comes from St. Gregory. Both undoubtedly demonstrated a commitment to their academic studies.

Annunciation Catholic School is hosting days throughout this week to promote vocations by having a Sister and a Priest come in and speak to their students. But at Annunciation, the focus isn’t merely on vocations or their Catholic School, but service to others. Care About People Day at Annunciation is having students bring an item for “Blessing Bags drive” in exchange for wearing a favorite hat and doing an unexpected good deed for someone. Students are also making Valentine’s Day Cards for special people in their community – Veterans, Homebound, firefighters, policemen, Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent de Paul, nursing homes, Meals on Wheels, and Food Banks. “The primary goal is to form students in faith that they may come to know and love Christ. As students come to know Christ, they learn what it means to be fully human in the example of Christ,” Keli McCann, Marketing Development Director says.

“Catholic Schools Week is a great way to celebrate volunteers,” Mary Jo Whalers, Development Director at Sts. Simon and Jude, says. To thank the donors of Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral School for all their support, eighth grade students have been calling their 2015 donors to thank them for their continued support this week. But the Catholic Schools Week also celebrates the continued dedication of the students. The Kindergartners have a tee-ball game during the week that has been a tradition for over 50 years – The Jets vs. Bombers. Even the older students remember whether they were a “Jet” or a “Bomber,” carrying on the legacy.

St. Gregory Catholic School is “Celebrating Differences” by hosting a night where members of the community can explore—and experience—the different disabilities that affect students across the world. St. Gregory will be the Arizona Catholic School’s Disability Fund Pilot School.

Parents are the primary educators, and to celebrate the dedication to their sons and daughters, St. Catherine of Siena is giving out snacks to their parents. And what would schools be without Teachers and Staff? To honor them, St. Jerome Catholic School’s dedicated faculty is being thanked by the school’s Student Council with a luncheon.

Today, students from all the Catholic schools will gather at the Cathedral and later the Capitol to celebrate your donations, your gift of a Catholic education, and Arizona’s continued support of school choice.

As a Catholic School student, this is more than my week. This is our week. This is your week.

This is more than a celebration of Catholic Schools’ accomplishments. This week is a celebration of your willingness and your generosity in supporting our Catholic schools. Your generosity is the reason students are learning the faith. Your generosity is the reason students are seeing injustices. Your generosity is the reason students are changing the world.

Your donation is the key to a brighter future. You truly have shone your light on education.

As a student who was blessed by your generosity through CEA, and with all the other students across Arizona being impacted by your support, Thank you.