Bishop Richard F. Stika was in Chattanooga visiting St. Jude Catholic School on Thursday while Sister Mary Marta Abbott toured St. Joseph and St. John Neumann Schools in Knoxville.
The two-pronged effort was part of the Diocese of Knoxville’s decision to make Catholic Schools Week (Jan 26-30) special for all diocesan school students, teachers and staff members.
“I think this is important, it shows we are a unified diocese and it reinforces just how significant each of these schools are to the future of Catholic education in our diocese,” said Sister Mary Marta, who is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Knoxville.
Sister makes regular visits to schools throughout the year, but this week’s trip is different.
Catholic Schools week is a national celebration of Catholic Education in the United States, and the Diocese of Knoxville is actively participating with Masses, classroom visits and other activities.
On Monday, Sister Mary Marta started her 5 day tour of all schools with a 90 mile drive to Chattanooga for an all-student Mass celebrated by Father Charlie Burton at St. Jude Catholic Church.
After Mass, Sister visited various classrooms with St. Jude School principal Jamie Goodhard.
In the afternoon, Sister Mary Marta drove cross-town to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School, visited classrooms and met with teachers and principal Sam Martin. F.S
Bishop Richard F. Stika, who frequently visits schools across the Diocese of Knoxville, has also added school trips to his busy schedule this week.
“The primary schools like OLPH and St. Jude are vital to the future of our Catholic school system,” Sister said as she maneuvered her way through Chattanooga traffic. “The primary schools are really ‘foundation schools’ for our high schools in Chattanooga and Knoxville,” she added.
On Tuesday, Sister made a return trip to Chattanooga for a visit at Notre Dame High School. She spent time touring the school with ND president George Valadie and watched a talent show presented by students.
This year’s Catholic Schools Week trip to Chattanooga differed from previous years. Instead of trying to visit all three schools in one day– the trip was divided into two days– with a return trip to Knoxville overnight for dinner and sleep at the Sister’s convent.
“It’s not easy, but splitting the three (Chattanooga) schools into two days has helped give us more time at each school,” Sister said.
The diocesan tour continued on Wednesday with trips to St. Mary’s Catholic School Johnson City and St. Dominic’s in Kingsport and on Thursday and Friday with school visits in Knoxville and Oak Ridge.