By Madison Partington, Middle School Teacher, St. Mary-Sacred Heart School, North Attleborough
NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH — St. Mary-Sacred Heart School in North Attleboro has been a constant in the community providing Catholic education to the area for almost a hundred years. SMSH has a strong presence in the local community, from participating in the annual town Christmas parade to having a booth set up in the downtown block party to fundraising for local charities and so much more throughout the year; the school stays involved.
Family and community is a key component of what makes SMSH such a special place. Because the school teaches students pre-K through grade eight, it allows siblings to all be under the same roof for a large portion of their fundamental education. Moreover, many of the students have parents and grandparents who were alumni of SMSH. But the family in this school is so much greater than the traditional family. Through the small class sizes, the students are given the opportunity to grow close to their peers through classroom activities, extra-curriculars and even more importantly, faith.
SMSH, also, has a buddy program. Buddies is a beloved tradition within the school with younger grades partnering with the upper grades to partake in a variety of activities throughout the school year. Some of these times are school-wide, such as an ornament making activity where the older students partnered with a younger student to paint snowflake ornaments to be sold at their Christmas fair. While others are smaller moments, such as the eighth grade meeting with their first-grade buddies to give words of encouragement before the first-grade had a performance. The buddy program allows the younger students to make bonds with the older kids that they hold onto and remember all throughout their time at SMSH until it is their turn to be the big kid.
As the community around the school changes, many of the long-standing traditions of the school continue to thrive and act as a rite of passage for these young Saints. The Catholic faith plays a large part in many practices that have been long passed down from one generation of students to the next. From the beginning of their time at SMSH, students become active participants in their school-wide Masses, and other special holy day activities. Starting as young as Kindergarten, the Saints perform a Christmas pageant for their family. Then, in first grade, the students research and transform into a Saint to share what they have learned about their saint during the school-wide All Saints’ Day celebration. In fourth grade, the students present a reenactment of the Stations of the Cross. There are bigger productions that build connections between the students, their peers and their faith like the third-grade Christmas pageant. The Christmas pageant itself is performed by the third-grade class; but an integral part of the storytelling is the music that is sung by students from second to eighth grade. Everything that SMSH does is to build a greater sense of community through faith.
Alumni look back on all of these things fondly— often able to remember their lines from the Kindergarten play, which Saint they were for All Saints Day, or their first solo in the Christmas choir. There are more moments like these that the students get to participate in every year; the younger students waiting for it to be their turn up the altar getting to participate just like the older kids did. The richness of tradition found in Catholic schools is what makes SMSH SMSH!