April 3-9, 2003
In Tune With The Gospel
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Students at St. Peter’s School keeping busy with acts of kindness and music
As usual, the students at St. Peter’s School in Utica are learning their reading, writing and arithmetic. But there is also something else going on at the elementary school –– by words and actions, the students have been busy sharing their faith with the community. Each year during Lent the school sets aside a day of retreat for the students to celebrate their faith. This year, the retreat was held on March 28. It was filled with special activities, all centering around the theme “Growing in Kindness.” Students made one-decade rosaries, prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the Rescue Mission, participated in an origami demonstration and learned songs that they sang in a prayer service at the end of the day.
“This is a day of retreat when the students get closer to God by performing acts of kindness,” said teacher Gabby DeCosty, who assisted the students in making sandwiches. “We want to show them how good it feels to do something to help out other people.” The spirit of kindness did not end when the bell rang at 2:30. All students, on retreat day, received a “kindness booklet” that they will keep for the remainder of the school year. Whenever a teacher spots a student being kind, he or she will receive a stamp in the booklet. Once every other week, there will be a “kindness patrol” roaming through the halls of St. Peter’s awarding a helium balloon, or another tiny surprise, to one student in each class that has received the most stamps for being kind.
“Hopefully, the students will see that the theme of kindness is not a one-day thing. We cannot just talk about growing in kindness and love, but practice it daily,” said Donna Goss, kindergarten aide. At the same time, there is a talented group of students from the school’s St. Cecelia Choir who are preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. From March 1-4, the choir will sing and be adjudicated by professional musicians at the “Music in the Parks” festival. The musicians will critique the students’ singing and upon a successful performance will honor the choir during an award ceremony.
The St. Cecelia Choir, a name taken from the patron saint of music, has been preparing for their up-coming trip for the past several months. The 45 students in grades four through six who will be journeying to the nation’s capital have worked diligently practicing and trying to raise money to help offset the cost of the trip. Kristina Bushey, a member of the choir, said that it has been hard work but that she is looking forward to the experience. “It will be a lot of fun to go to Washington,” Kristina stated. “We all have a good time singing together and we are very excited.”
Patrick J. DelPiano, principal of St. Peter’s, noted that being adjudicated is very rare for an elementary school choir. He believes that this opportunity reflects the school’s focus to educate the entire child. “Music and the arts are not extracurricular at St. Peter’s. They are an integral part of education,” DelPiano stated. “They give students just as much knowlege and discipline as other subjects and provide an important link with religious and historical ties.” For those who will not have the opportunity to travel to Washington to hear the choir, the students also give performances throughout the community. They sing at local parishes and community centers and frequently join with St. Peter’s Church Choir during weekend Masses. Matthew S. Murphy, director of the St. Cecelia choir and music teacher at St. Peter’s, said that performing for the community is a great way for the choir, which he calls a “fine musical ensemble,” to bring their faith out into the community. “People can see the great things going on at St. Peter’s,” he said.
The trip to Washington will be not only a time filled with song, but also a great “once on a lifetime” event for students educationally. The boys and girls plan to meet with Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) at the Capitol and to visit historic Catholic landmarks. Four students will also have the honor of placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. DelPiano is rightfully proud of the St. Cecelia Choir. He credits Murphy and his diligent work with the students with turning the choir into a one-of-a-kind program. Murphy, DelPiano said, is part of a dedicated staff and a wonderful group of students who make St. Peter’s such a successful school. “We have so much to offer students here at St. Peter’s,” stated DelPiano. “It is truly a great place for students to learn and grow into well-rounded young men and women.”