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placeholder Bishop Vigneron says farewell

Bishop Emeritus Cummins reflects
on Bishop Vigneron’s appointment

Detroit welcomes a native son as new archbishop

Cathedral food service hires grads of Kitchen of Champions' culinary training program

Cathedral interfaith prayer service for President-elect, administration

St. Bede School/Moreau High grad creates award-winning adventures of a holy hit man

Moraga parishioners put new shoes on students’ feet

Schools plan civic lessons, celebrations to observe Obama inauguration

Gaza priest: ‘We cry and nobody hears us’

Catholic clinics destroyed in Gaza; patriarch calls for peace

Catholic Relief Services pledges to continue aid to Gaza

Immigration reform advocates hopeful of success with Obama

Religious coalition urges Obama to end U.S. torture practices

Americans report religion’s influence on the decline

Guatemalan Catholics march on crime rate

Operation Rice Bowl funds delivered to nine local service organizations

Pastoral ministry schools graduate 50 lay leaders

Youth in diocese instructed on possible sex abuse

placeholder January 19, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Schools plan civic lessons, celebrations
to observe Obama inauguration

Diocesan teachers and students are planning an expansive array of traditional, thoughtful and fun-filled ways to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

That’s what The Voice learned recently when we queried principals to learn how they are marking the historic election of the first African-American to the nation’s highest office.

Two Oakland high schools — Bishop O’Dowd and Holy Names — have sent a total of 104 students to D.C. for several days to participate in a national immersion program called Close Up. The program, started in 1971, sponsors week-long stays in the Capitol, using the city as a living classroom. The students are meeting with Congressional members or staff. Their agendas also include discussing hot issues with policy experts and finding out from veteran journalists how the media shapes policy.

They will attempt to go to the inauguration as well, packed in with the hundreds of thousands of like-minded visitors who are swarming into D.C. According to Jo Lynn Homertgen, dean of students and social studies teacher at Holy Names, her school’s 23 students are staying at a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. Coping with the crush of crowds who also will be taking the Metro to the inauguration will be a challenge, predicted Homertgen.

A 3:30 a.m. departure

In order to reach the site in a timely fashion, the Holy Namers were scheduled to leave their hotel at 3:30 a.m. on inauguration day. “It’s going to be pretty brutal,” said Homertgen. “The Metro has never carried this many people before.”
Meanwhile, back home in Oakland, the rest of the Holy Names students will view the inauguration on television. “They’ll be a lot warmer,” said the school’s dean, a bit wistfully.

While there’s nothing like being at the scene of a historically momentous event, despite its attendant discomforts, celebrating at home has lots of appeal, too. Just ask the kids and teachers at St. Martin de Porres, St. Elizabeth and St. Leo schools in Oakland.

Sacred Heart Sister Barbara Dawson, president and principal of St. Martin De Porres, has a big morning lined up for her 195 students.

A world-famous mezzo soprano

When they arrive at their campus gymnasium in West Oakland at 8:15 a.m., they will be treated to a rousing rendition of “God Bless America” by world-famous mezzo soprano and Alameda parishioner, Frederica von Stade. Von Stade is a beloved face around St. Martin de Porres’ two campus locations — Sacred Heart and St. Patrick’s, said Sister Dawson.

Then, the assembly will watch the inauguration on a big-screen TV. Afterwards, the students will break up into their “faith families” which will pair younger and older students for prayer and activities.

There will be a story telling presentation on the Civil Rights era by several African American faculty members. “We want to put our kids into the center of the racial equality struggle of our country,” explained the principal.

“We have teachers here who took part in sit-in’s during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. They knew what it was like to have to drink at the colored water fountains.”

Next on the agenda will be a parade from the St. Patrick campus to the West Oakland BART Station and back. Marchers will carry cardboard signs reading “Congratulations, President Obama.” Festivities will conclude with an all American lunch of hot dogs, potato chips and a red, white and blue cake.

St. Elizabeth Elementary School has been revving up for the inauguration since last fall. Teachers tapped into a civics project featured in Scholastic Magazine’s on-line version. Students got to fill out actual voter registration forms — not during class, mind you, but during their lunch hour — “so they’d know what it’s like to have to go out of their way” to make a commitment, pointed out Dominican Sister Rose Marie Hennessy, principal. Voting criteria? “Knowing how to write your name.”

The students also had to find out what their voting times were. Then after casting their ballots on line, they were able to see states changing color every seven minutes as national results came in.

On Inauguration Day, St. Elizabeth will have an interactive presidential gallery on display in the school gymnasium. Eighth graders have lined the walls with pictures of all 44 presidents with questions posted regarding their particular administrations.

For example, under the photo of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one question asks, “When was the Great Depression?” Kids can find the answer underneath a post-it note. The display works “like one of those Advent calendars, where there is something under the date.” said Sister Hennessy.

There will also be a children’s museum with artifacts and antiques that would have filled American households during different periods of our history. During the Roosevelt era, for instance, there is an old — time wooden radio, the kind Americans would have tuned into for FDR’s “Fireside Chats.”

Time for dancing

The inaugural will open with kids, parents and faculty singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” followed by watching the actual ceremony on a large screen television. Besides the history and civics lessons shaping the morning’s activities, there will be time for dancing “to give the children an opportunity to practice their social skills,” noted Sister Hennessy. The music will be a wide variety of popular styles starting with the Big Band era.

Sister Hennessy is hoping to locate a life-sized cardboard standup of Obama and his vice president, Joe Biden, so that each child can be photographed with them.

St. Leo’s in Oakland will mark President Obama’s inauguration “in a big way,” said Principal Sonya Simril. Students and faculty will arrive at school dressed in formal black and white outfits — “sort of like a black tie gala event,” said Simril. Everyone will watch the inaugural on television, either in classrooms or on the big screen in the school auditorium.

One of the parents who works as a professional caterer will provide a celebratory lunch of chicken, rice and green beans. This entrée will replace the usual Tuesday pizza fare, she said.

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