As a Catholic school, St. Jude the Apostle is constantly striving to improve the faith, and faith development is foremost within the community. The faith formation of the students is achieved not only through formal instruction, but more importantly, through services, relationships and participating in Mass and sacramentals of the Church. The school has recently purchased a new Religion textbook series that aligns with the Archdiocesan standards and contains the most recent prayers and traditions of the Church. Students learn the doctrine of the Church and how they can apply their faith to their daily lives and relationships. Faith formation is not just limited to Religion classes; it is woven into all aspects of the curriculum, particularly duirng Literature, through the stories and novels read, and Social Studies. A strong component of the program for the students is community outreach through various service projects. Students participate in the parish’s Loaves and Fishes program at Christmas through the Adopt-a-Family program, the Coats for a Cause drive in the fall , and at Easter by making Easter baskets for children. In addition, the students bring in school supplies for the sister school, donate candy and needed supplies to send to the soldiers, collect tolietries to pass out to the homeless after serving dinner, as well as making cards for soldiers and the sick in the community.
Cross-level student relationships helps improve faith formation with the older students helping to model appropriate behaviors to the younger students. Students meet monthly as a “school family” which consists of one to two students per grade level with the eighth grader being the “head” of the family, to socialize and complete service projects. The school families help to create a better sense of Christian community on campus as students become more aware of students in different grades. Also, eighth graders work with the second graders in their sacramental preparation as their “Guardian Angels”, meeting weekly throughout this important sacramental year, fifth graders partner with Kindergarteners as their “Study Buddies” to help model appropriate behavior at all school functions, especially weekly Mass and sixth graders pair with first graders as their “Reading Buddies” to encourage the beginning reading process.
Participation in the liturgy, sacraments and sacramentals is vital to student faith formation. Students attend Mass weekly as a school community, with a special class-prepared liturgy once a month, and on holy days including the Feast of St. Jude, All Saints Day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception , Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday. The students participate in a variety of sacramentals as well: during Advent, there is a weekly School Advent wreath prayer service; during Lent, the Stations of the Cross are reenacted, and in May, they pray the Rosary and honor Mary by crowning here. These seasonal sacramentals are student driven with the eighth graders leading the way and guiding the faith formation of the student body and the parents.
The faith formation of the parents in very much service and relationship driven. Parents serve as Eucharistic ministers at all school Masses, assist the teachers with preparation of class sponsored Masses and help with the training of altar servers under the guidance of the pastor, Fr. Jim Stehly. The parents have a very active Christian Service Committee that helps plan and organize a variety of school-wide as well as class specific service projects throughout the school year. The committee has developed grade specific service projects so that a student attending St. Jude’s from Kindergarten to 8th will experience a variety of service opportunities by their graduation.