Pancake breakfast kicks off Catholic Schools Week

January 30, 2007|by MARIE GILBERT

It wasn't your run-of-the-mill pancake breakfast.

People don't fly in from Florida for flapjacks, omelets and a side of sausage.

But here they were - John and Millie Vaccaro of Gainesville - standing in line in the cafeteria of St. Mary Catholic School, ready for a hot meal.

"We're only visiting for a couple of days," said Millie, "and our grandson wanted to show us his school. He told us about the breakfast and here we are."

The Vaccaros were among more than 200 people who enjoyed a home-cooked pancake/omelet breakfast Saturday morning at St. Mary.

The breakfast has become a tradition at the Hagerstown school and is held annually to kick off Catholic Schools Week.

"It's one of the biggest school events of the year," said William Beliveau, principal. "We have families who live all across Washington County, as well as Pennsylvania and West Virginia. And we all lead busy lives. But this breakfast is one of those times when we all come together as a school community."


In addition to the breakfast, there was a book fair and tours of the school. Visitors also could view photo displays that feature students, teachers and events spanning several decades at St. Mary.

"Several months ago, we began asking for old photos," Beliveau said. "And we got a great response. While they're fun to look at, they really tell a story about our school."

While the breakfast is a popular get-together for current St. Mary families, Beliveau said the event has wide support from the community, including alumni and church members.

"I've been here four years," he said, "and the breakfast is always packed."

"The pancake breakfast has always been a success," said Michelle Shaper, president of St. Mary's Home School Association.

"We don't hold many nonfundraising events, but this is one of them," she said. "It's meant to be a social event - a chance to really get to know each other, mingle and have a good time."

Among the volunteers helping to prepare the breakfast was Rhonda O'Malley, who, over the years, has had four children attend St. Mary.

"This is a fun morning," she said. "But, more importantly, it kicks off Catholic Schools Week, and I really believe in Catholic schools."

O'Malley said she attended Catholic schools as a young girl and wanted the same kind of education for her children.

"During their formative years, they need structure, they need reinforcement of faith and values. And when families and schools do this together, it's priceless," she said.

"We want students to succeed academically," Beliveau said. "But we also want them to succeed as individuals. In order to do that, you have to have a system that helps you make the right choices. Eighty percent is parents. We're just an extension of the values they learn at home. That's what makes St. Mary's work."

During the breakfast, the Rev. Kevin Mueller, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, took the opportunity to thank the teachers at St. Mary School, "who teach because they feel called to teach."

"It's a vocation, really a mission," he said. "Children at St. Mary receive a good education and it happens because of our teachers."

There are nearly 8,000 Catholic schools in the U.S., but St. Mary is the only Catholic elementary school in Washington County. During the week, the school will continue to celebrate Catholic Schools Week.

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