Children make people smile, offer hope for the future, help, comfort and refresh.

It’s no wonder that parish schools contribute to parish vibrancy.

Students’ “presence on the property brings a youthful spirit to our parish and reminds us that this is their parish too, to lead and be part of today and tomorrow,” said Msgr. Bernard Bourgeois, pastor of Christ the King and Immaculate Heart of Mary parishes in Rutland and St. Patrick Parish in Wallingford.

Christ the King School in Rutland is a major part of parish life at Christ the King Parish. The students have Mass once a week and join the parish for holy day Masses and outreach projects like food and diaper drives. Once a month, one class takes the lead at a Sunday Mass — reading, serving, taking the collection and bringing up the gifts. “The parish sees our school children a lot, and it really livens things up,” he said.

The experience is similar at other Catholic schools connected to parishes.

Students at The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis in Bennington are present as altar servers, youth choir members and volunteers at parish dinners and functions. They help assemble Thanksgiving baskets, volunteer in the food pantry and collect food for the needy in the community. Sporting events are hosted at the church’s parish center, and an annual Christmas pageant is presented in the sanctuary of the church. “Celebrations of Mass with the parishioners on First Fridays, a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, bring smiles to many faces,” said Principal David Estes.

Service projects in combination with the parish are a regular occurrence for the school students and their families. “Parents understand that supporting their children’s’ education means service and contributions to the overall parish community,” Estes said.

“Parishioners feel ownership with the school. They enjoy coming into the building for various events even just admiring the school garden when they walk by on their way into church,” said Brenda Buzzell, principal of St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre, where children tend a garden that is enjoyed by families and parishioners who watch it grow on their way to Mass.

The high school students at St. Michael School in Brattleboro form an Honor Guard at the funerals of alumni; school events — like concerts and sporting events — are becoming popular with some parishioners.

St. Michael School “is blessed to be part of the St. Michael Parish,” said Principal Elaine Beam. “We enjoy events such as the spaghetti dinner and parish brunch where students, staff and parents have the opportunity to meet parishioners who are alumni of St. Michael High School and very generous supporters of the school.”

Holy Cross Father Robert Wiseman, pastor of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington, said The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis “is the present and future of our church.”

The relationship between schools and parishes is mutually beneficial as parishioners support the schools, their students and their activities, and school children enhance parish life by their participation and service.

—Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.