ST. AGATHA IN THE NEWS
A priest and a dad co-teach a St. Agatha religion class
The duo helps ‘lessons come alive’
At the front of a St. Agatha School classroom, eighth-grade theology teacher
Arnaud Prevot begins the day’s lesson on Advent and the sacraments. He’s just
a few sentences into his introduction when another voice chimes in from across
the room: “Advent comes from the Latin word ‘adventus,’ meaning ‘coming.’”
Father Luan Tran steps around a desk and smiles at the students, who sit with
open notebooks and attentive looks.
For the next 40 minutes, the quick-witted pastor of St. Agatha Parish in Southeast
Portland and Prevot, a gregarious father of three, pace back and forth in front of the
room gesticulating, asking questions, finishing each other’s sentences — engaging the students while tackling substantial theological ideas.
It’s the first time in memory a priest has co-taught a class at the school, according to Chris Harris, St. Agatha principal. Father Tran and Prevot guide one of two weekly eighth-grade religion lessons, blending the insights of their respective vocations to offer a rich view of the faith.
“What showed me it was special was during our first class,” said Prevot. “The kids perked up, and they thought it was something really different.”
Harris believes the two men — one an emigrant from France, the other from Vietnam — “are a great team.”
The duo “are passionate and enthusiastic, and it’s neat for the students to not only see role models in the faith but to see the lessons come alive; they are not coming from a static textbook or lecture.”
Prevot and Father Tran typically meet once a week over coffee at a local bakery to formulate their plan for the upcoming class. They decided early on to conduct the lessons seminar style, with each asking the other questions.
“The back and forth makes it more interesting,” said eighth-grader Theo Pashley, adding that if one teacher offers an explanation that seems confusing, the other can help clarify.
Father Tran had never taught at an elementary school before but knew he wanted to help with instruction at St. Agatha after being transferred to the parish last summer.
“A priest is a teacher,” said Father Tran. “He’s a preacher and a sanctifier, but also a teacher. This is a way to exercise that responsibility.”
He said teaching is also “a way to know what the students are thinking, what they are struggling with, so I can better serve them and be there for them.”
Father Tran hopes to show the eighth-graders that the Catholic faith is more than rules in a book, but that “it’s about interactions and relationships” — a reality he affirms with his own presence.
The eighth-grade homeroom teacher, Christine Taylor, leads the second weekly religion class and helps ensure the classes are covering required topics. Thus far the co-teachers have explored a range of subjects, including proof of God, the parts of the Mass and the Incarnation.
“We don’t dumb it down,” said Prevot. “Students are thirsty for the real.”
Prevot explained that with a priest and married father teaching, students see the “beauty and possibility in each path.”
“I think together we help form a real understanding of vocations, whether students choose married life or the priesthood or religious life.”
Kylie Morley said both perspectives have added to her understanding of Catholicism. Father Tran is “able to go in depth with theology, something he’s been studying much of his life,” she said. “And since Mr. Prevot is a father of three, he can relate some things in his life to stories in the Bible, like the joy of having a child.”
Prevot admits trying something new meant there were kinks to work out.
He recalled that in the beginning, “the students were like, ‘Wait, who is the teacher?’ and ‘Should I be taking notes?’”
With glitches solved and the kids acclimated to the approach, Prevot believes the classes are “phenomenal.”
He suggests such a co-teaching model with a married instructor and a priest could be beneficial at other parish schools, although he acknowledges the commitment can be tricky for busy pastors.
But Father Tran said teaching the religion class is personally rewarding.
“It’s a tremendous experience,” he said. “It’s energizing to see students responding thoughtfully and prayerfully. They really give me a glimpse into their hearts about their views on God and the future. It’s moving.”
3rd Grade Service Learning
Our 3rd Grade class teamed up with Providence Child Center for Medically Fragile Children and TriMet for an incredible service learning experience. Watch the video below to learn how St. Agatha students make a difference.
Islamophobia: Why it’s getting worse and the role of Catholics
"We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people as other than sisters and brothers, for all are created in God’s image."
— Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions
Jawad Khan’s 3-year-old daughter was at his side when a motorist in the
family-friendly Portland suburb of Beaverton rolled down a window and shouted, “Sand N-word!”
Confused, the little girl asked her father what it meant.
“What are you supposed to say?” asked Khan quietly, the sadness audible.
It was not the first time he’d been the recipient of a slur — far from it. But that afternoon
several years ago remains especially painful.
The share of U.S. Muslims who’ve experienced such harassment is trending upward according
to recent reports, as are the number of violent assaults against Muslims.
The complex but overall distressing picture of anti-Muslim behavior in the United States
should alarm Catholics, whose faith holds Muslims in high regard.
Todd Cooper oversees Christian and ecumenical relations for the Portland Archdiocese. He said
unfortunately “we as Catholics have a long way to go on this issue of Islamophobia. There is a lot
of fear and lack of understanding.”
A study released in 2016 by a Georgetown University research group found one-third of U.S. Catholics admit that their overall impression of Muslims is unfavorable; only 14 percent say they have favorable views.
Cooper said education but foremost friendship and dialogue help overcome not only hatred but also the misperceptions some Catholics hold.
“Muslims go to work, pay taxes, care for their children, have similar concerns as we do,” he said. “We need to get to know them as human beings.”
‘Go back to your country'
In the spring of 2017, 53-year-old Ricky Best, a Catholic, was one of three men who stepped forward to defend two teens in a Portland commuter train. The teens — one wearing a Muslim headscarf, the other black — were victims of anti-Muslim and racist verbal assaults from a fellow passenger. When Best and the young men spoke up, the attacker slashed at them with a knife, killing Best and 23-year-old Taliesin Namkai-Meche.
Khan, a teacher at the Muslim Educational Trust in Tigard, said that, in general, Muslims in Portland feel “safe and comfortable.”
The train stabbing “was eye-opening,” he said, a reminder that Muslims in the area aren’t immune from violent Islamophobic behavior.
Ahmed Ali said the stabbing was heartbreaking and “terrifying” for his wife, Rasha. Ali is a Muslim who fled Iraq in 2014 because his Western-linked journalism career made him a target of al-Qaida.
“Because my wife wears a hijab, she was worried after the stabbing that someone would threaten her, maybe attack her also,” said Ali, a former Catholic Charities Oregon employee who now works as a community liaison for the Beaverton School District.
Beaverton contains a large population of Muslims, who number nearly 30,000 in the Portland metro region, estimates Khan. There are approximately 1.8 billion worldwide (compared with 1.28 billion Catholics).
In a Pew survey released last year based on FBI hate crime statistics, the number of assaults against Muslims in the United States rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, surpassing the modern peak in 2001, the year of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 19 percent.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group known as CAIR, recorded a 17 percent increase in what it termed “anti-Muslim bias incidents” in 2017 over 2016. Incidents included verbal harassment, property damage and physical violence.
“Statistics are definitely pointing toward a broader trend of Islamophobia,” said Jordan Denari Duffner. Duffner authored the recent Bridge Initiative report out of Georgetown, which looked at Catholic views of Muslims and how they are portrayed by Catholic media.
Duffner said FBI hate crime statistics do not fully capture the extent of hate crimes nationally. The figures depend on a number of factors, including local policereporting such crimes and what kinds of hate crime laws are in place. Currently 45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of bias-motivated violence or intimidation.
Another 2017 Pew study illuminated a positive, albeit counterintuitive, trend. Although nearly half of American Muslims said they’d experienced some form of discrimination in the past 12 months, a similar 49 percent said they had experienced support for being Muslim.
“Some research shows that as Islamophobia gets worse, public opinion gets better,” Duffner said. Part of that enigma likely is explained by political shifts tied to the 2016 election and the current administration, but there also have been cultural changes. “In clothing brands, in restaurants, we’re seeing there’s a push to portray Muslims more positively,” said Duffner.
She said it’s important to note that Islamophobia is not something new and was playing into electoral politics long before the most recent presidential election. Yet “never so blatantly,” Duffner said.
As a presidential front-runner, Donald Trump called for banning all Muslims from entering the United States. This past June, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the latest version of his ban, which blocks travel from several countries, most of which are predominately Muslim.
CAIR suggests the ban plays a role in the rise of Islamophobia, although no studies have yet proved a clear correlation.
Khan said the ban conveys the message that Muslims are to be feared. “Plus the rhetoric thrown around about Muslims has allowed people who might have felt a certain way in the past to now feel more at ease saying it online or out loud,” he said.
Ali feels Islamophobic views have trickled into children’s careless schoolyard insults.
Last year, a classmate of his son, Mustafa, then 12, told him: “Go back to your country so Trump can bomb you.”
The school and parents took action, and the child apologized. “But it affected Mustafa a lot,” said Ali. “He sat crying, saying, ‘I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty.’”
The Muslim Educational Trust — which houses a pre-K-12 school as well as community education programs for Muslims and non-Muslims — has organized workshops on Islamophobia for the local police department, public schools and government agencies.
Helping with the workshops, Khan found Islamophobia usually is linked to inaccurate information, some of it traced to what’s known as the “Islamophobia network” or “industry.”
“Disinformation campaigns about Muslims are prevalent,” said Peter Bechtold, a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Southwest Portland who has lived and worked in 26 Muslim-majority countries and taught at several universities.
The network, often given voice in online blogs, exaggerates and manufactures threats of Muslims in order to drum up a climate of fear against Muslims living in the West.
Duffner said American Catholic institutions and media outlets also provide platforms for views of the so-called network.
The Catholic Church and Islam
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (“Lumen Gentium”), approved by the Second Vatican Council, says that, along with the influence of the Jewish people, the “plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims.”
In an address to young Muslims of Morocco in 1985, St. John Paul II said Muslims and Catholics “believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.”
Pope Francis reminded Catholics in 2013 that “our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations.” He’s said it is neither accurate nor fair to identify Islam with violence.
In spite of church teaching, the Bridge Initiative study found 1 in 5 Catholics believe there are no similarities between Catholicism and Islam.
Many people “simply aren’t sufficiently educated,” said Bechtold, now adjunct professor of political science at Portland State University. For three decades he served at the U.S. State Department diplomatic academy, where he prepared senior U.S. officials for work related to the Middle East.
Bechtold said similarities between Catholicism and Islam include the importance of Jesus and a reverence for Mary.
Muslims do not believe Jesus is God but that he holds an elevated role in Islam as a super-messenger alongside Abraham, Moses and Mohammad, said Bechtold. The Quran says Jesus “will sit at the right hand of God on Judgement Day.”
Mary, Bechtold continued, is “the single most revered woman in Islam,” with an entire chapter written about her.
Duffner said she’s long been struck by how “for Muslims, like Catholics, belief and how we act are so intimately bound together.”
“Not to reduce them — there is diversity in both traditions,” she said — but both stress the importance of faith coupled with good works; both ask, “What is our faith calling us to do for our neighbor and what can we do for the world?”
Bechtold said that among the many common inaccuracies Americans, including Catholics, have about Islam is the meaning of the word “jihad.”
“It does not mean holy war, even though media for decades have been describing it that way,” said Bechtold. “It means making a big effort.”
The professor said there are two kinds of jihad, a lesser and a greater. “The greater requires a Muslim to be more prayerful and to care more about their neighbors,” he said. It also includes working for social justice and overcoming greed.
The lesser jihad is the source of the long-perpetuated misunderstanding, said Bechtold.
“In the Quran it states that if the Muslim community is under attack by non-Muslims, then it’s the duty of able-bodied males to come to the defense of the community,” Bechtold explained.
'Circle of understanding'
There are individuals like Ricky Best who are willing to risk their lives to defend Muslims under attack. Duffner points out, however, that Catholics’ opinions about Muslims — 3 in 10 hold a negative view — are similar to the general American public. At the same time, Catholics are less likely than the American public to know a Muslim personally, according to he Bridge Initiative report.
And that is problematic, said Duffner.
Echoing Cooper, she said personal knowledge is critical to understanding the Muslim community. Catholics can learn about Islam, learn about church teaching and similarities between the faiths. But then there’s the powerful human level of comprehension that comes from dialogue and friendship.
“If you don’t have personal relationships with people then you view different ideas in an abstract form and it’s easy to misinterpret them,” observed Msgr. Charles Lienert, a recently retired Portland archdiocesan priest who for years was active in Portland’s Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, a coalition of faith groups, unions and social service agencies.
Msgr. Lienert said people should not be afraid to ask questions. “If you are generally interested and it’s not an attempt to trip them up or convert them, I’ve found people are interested in sharing about their faith.”
He added that working together on common social issues, such as poverty or homelessness, is a “wonderful way to come together and learn about Muslims and people of other faiths.”
The benefits of interfaith relationships can have spiritual repercussions, contends Duffner in her 2017 book, “Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic.”
“Through our exposure to Muslims’ religion, Islam, we realize that God can be found in many beautiful aspects of a religion that is not our own,” she writes. “And in revisiting our own religion with fresh eyes, we find that God is waiting for us at home, in our own faith tradition, challenging us to live out our Christianity in new ways.”
Two Portland moms would likely agree.
Sarah Lax and Ranya Mike both send their children to St. Agatha School in Southeast Portland.
“It was a natural, easy friendship from the beginning,” said Lax, a lifelong Catholic. Mike, originally from Lebanon, is Muslim.
St. Agatha appealed to Mike because of its strong academics, focus on building character, and the individualized attention children receive. She found a community that was “so loving, every last person in it.”
The differences between Catholicism and Islam give her and her husband an entry point to discuss and deepen their two children’s understanding of Islam, said Mike, who also points to the faiths’ similarities.
“There are similarities about God, respect, loving thy neighbor and helping others,” Mike said.
A commitment to charity is an overlap that especially stands out for her.
Islam stipulates that Muslims must donate 2.5 percent of their wealth once a year to help the poor and needy. “At St. Agatha we see a lot of focus on charity,” said Mike, describing how her children join classmates as they deliver items to a food bank near Christian holidays.
Lax said her friend “personifies the best in a school parent,” volunteering for committees, showing up for school events. “Ranya knows how to truly be of service,” said Lax.
She said Mike has inspired her in other ways, too. Lax recalled how during Ramadan Mike stopped by for a few hours to chat while the children played. Mike hadn’t eaten all day — the Ramadan fast lasts from dawn to sunset — and Lax was moved by the challenge of the commitment. “As kids we would give up TV for Lent, fish on Friday — but that kind of intensity of diving deeper into her faith, it was moving,” said Lax.
She said it prompted her to consider how she might “dig a bit more into Lent and create some daily intentionality that didn’t exist before.”
Because not everyone stumbles upon such organic friendships, however, Ali encourages Muslims and Catholics alike to take personal, deliberate steps toward interfaith understanding.
“Each of us has a responsibility to try to know each other,” he said. “It’s a circle of understanding that gets bigger and bigger until, one day, everyone is inside it.”
MIRACLES DO HAPPEN
My husband’s recurrence of cancer came as a surprise. Nine years after his diagnosis of leukemia, we thought we had left the disease behind.
Abbasse, eternally brave and steadfast, faced long odds. Last summer was spent with daily rounds of radiation and weekly doses of chemotherapy. In early September, the images didn’t look good. The cancer was still there. Abbasse’s doctors didn’t feel he was healthy enough for surgery. They recommended continued surveillance and eventually hospice and a heartbreaking goodbye.
In an effort to protect Talla, our son, we didn’t tell him the gravity of his papa’s prognosis. We hoped that St. Agatha Parish and its school would provide him with a spiritual refuge and a community to help him as our family faced a painful reality. We prayed in earnest. Bobbi Omo, the teacher, and her third grade class took up the cause, praying for Abbasse daily with intercession prayers to St. Padre Pio.
We never expected what we heard the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
Abbasse’s doctor called, and Abbasse handed me the phone, not wanting to hear the presumed bad news.
“There’s no cancer,” the doctor said with delight in his voice. Miraculously, the cancer was gone. The doctors are happily baffled, and we are relishing our new reality.
Thank you to all of the children and families who prayed for Abbasse. Your prayers mean the world to our family. Your grace and goodwill is a bright light. God bless you. Miracles do happen.
Bodian is a member of St. Agatha Parish in Southeast Portland.
St. Agatha Graduate Continues Family Tradition
Eighth grader Ryan Stephens knew when he started preschool at St. Agatha
Catholic School 11 years ago that it was the place for him. It was his destiny
to follow in his family’s footsteps and graduate from St. Agatha. Ryan’s dad,
aunts and uncles are all alumni of this 105-yr-old school in Sellwood. It’s a
legacy that makes him feel good.
“I’m proud that my family has made such a big impact on the school,” said
Ryan. “They’ve contributed financially, chaired the school auction for four
years and given hours of service. They’ve done a lot to make the facilities
When Ryan’s dad Mike Stephens graduated from St. Agatha in 1986 kids
went to class in a building originally constructed in 1911. Today they enjoy
music, art, technology and many more subjects in a newer, bigger school
built in 2003 after the parish raised $3.5 million dollars.
Mike’s four siblings and their children have all gone to St. Agatha. At one
point, his mother had seven grandchildren attending the school at the same
time – quite the challenge on Grandparent’s Day.
“St. Agatha’s small class sizes, home room teachers in middle school and the community of people make everyone at this school feel like family to us,” said Mike.
Ryan’s family isn’t the only one that feels that way. According to a recent school survey, the number one reason families said they send their children to St. Agatha is because they feel like they’re part of a family. A recent Western Catholic Educational Association’s accreditation survey found the same thing, “Throughout the visit, the visiting committee was in awe of the strong sense of community and family amongst the faculty, staff, parents, and students.”
“Building a strong community for our children is one of the best ways to bring our mission of learning, faith, and service to life,” said Chris Harris, St. Agatha principal.
This year 28 students are graduating from St. Agatha. Nine of those have been going to this school for 11 years, longer than they will likely be a student at any school during their lifetime.
Ryan’s favorite memory from his time at St. Agatha – last summer’s class trip to Washington D.C. “The school has given me so much. It’s helped me get out of my comfort zone, make new life experiences and pushed me to be better.”
September 18, 2015
St. Agatha Catholic School seventh grader Meg Metzler-Gilbertz plays the flute, but now she things it's time to shake things up so she's switching to the trumpet as she joins the school's new band.
"I love the sound the trumpet makes." she says. "I wanted to play the trombone, but the trumpet is small and I can carry it."
St. Agatha, in Portland's Sellwood neighborhood, has a new music teacher this year, Tracie Swanson, who has rich experience directing school bands throughout Oregon.
"This band is an opportunity to develop our students' talents beyond academics," says Chris Harris, principal.
Students can choose wind instruments and percussion. The program is open to fifth through eighth grade students who will practice together for an hour before school, twice a week and perform two concerts.
Meg's mom Nancy Gilbertz is thankful for the small group instruction her children will receive for the $150 band fee. She has paid much more for private lessons.
"Having a band really gives the kids and opportunity to learn different instruments and see how they sound together," says Gilbertz.
In addition to the new band, Swanson provides St. Agatha students with general music classes and leads the school's church choir.
"The rigor of learning a band instrument benefits the student both academically and emotionally," Swanson says. "Students feel proud of themselves when they hear how their well-rehearsed part fits into the final product.
Swanson adds that providing students with a band experience at St. Agatha, they will be prepared to continue band at the high school level.
"The main reason I want to join the band is it's something fun to do," say Meg. "I can't wait to perform and see how it sounds."
St. Agatha Catholic School has an enrollment of more than 225 students.
OREGON FOOD BANK
Oregon Food Bank is helping social service agencies in Northern California who are caring for victims of two devastating wildfires. The Valley and Butte fires forced 20,000 people to evacuate and have so far destroyed at least 800 homes.
Volunteers (St. Agatha Middle School students and others) packaged over 1,300 boxes with shelf-stable goods such as fruit, vegetables, milk and beans. "It's about neighbors helping neighbors," says Oregon food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan. "We are here to respond to crisis, whether it be someone struggling in a Portland suburb or a community hit by disaster." Oregon Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a national network of food banks committed to working together to end hunger.
Oregon Food Bank has helped in other disaster situations, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Most recently the organization was on standby to help victims of fires in Easter Oregon and Washington, but was not called upon.
ST. AGATHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL’S PUBLISHED POET
Catholic Sentinel, May 2015
St Agatha Catholic School eighth-grader Isadora Colpo recently won a national poetry contest, had the poem published and is now moving on to LaSalle High School next year on a $10,000 Presidential scholarship. What she’s just now realizing is Robert Fulghum was right when he wrote the book “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Isadora started at St. Agatha in preschool. In kindergarten she remembers learning the skills Fulghum writes about in his book - sharing, caring, and being kind. In Isadora’s case you can add poetry to the list. In kindergarten her teacher, Jessie Archambeault, a poet-lover too, assigned poetry. The seed for Isadora’s love of poetry was planted.
In eighth grade Isadora entered her first poetry contest, Creative Communication’s Poetic Power contest. The top 45 percent best poems are published in a book. Taylor Swift won this contest when she was in 5th grade. Isadora’s poem, “Some Poems” was published in the Summer 2014 edition. A copy can be found in the St. Agatha library.
Isadora is one of 26 outstanding eighth graders who will graduate from St. Agatha this June. Like Isadora, nine of those students started at St. Agatha in preschool. St. Agatha has provided the upcoming graduates with a variety of learning experiences utilizing 3-D computer printers, a Learning Support Center, service projects, art, music, physical education and academics that have allowed them to thrive.
Eight-grade teacher Carol Weber says this year’s graduating class really exemplifies Fulghum’s message.
“They would give the sweatshirt off their back to help each other,” said Carol. “They are amazing!”
Isadora started at St. Agatha when she only three years old, but leaves it today as a published poet, cantor of her school choir, officer of her school’s Youth Ministry and scoring in the 98 percentile on her Scholastic Aptitude Test. But, most importantly, she leaves as a young person spiritually and academically ready to take on the world.
“I think it’s really good that I’ve come here because if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today,” said Isadora.
For more than 100 years, St. Agatha has offered a pre-K through eighth grade Catholic education in the heart of the Sellwood neighborhood. St. Agatha School is dedicated to the faith, service and learning of its more than 220 students.
In March, spirit of St. Patrick returns to Sellwood
By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE
Clearly, few who participated in the parade or carnival were Irish. Many of the participants and observers weren’t even associated with St. Agatha Catholic School. Nonetheless, a delighted throng was caught up in the “spirit of St. Patrick’s Day” throughout the Sellwood area on Saturday, March 14.
“Welcome to our 17th Annual Sellwood-Moreland St. Patrick’s Day festivities,” grinned this year’s organizer, Heidi LaValley.
Having been on the committee for several years, LaValley said she was selected to lead the 150 or more volunteers who put on the events of the day.
“We all work together on the parade and festival,” LaValley told THE BEE, “because it’s a great celebration for both adults and kids. By being involved, we show our children the importance of contributing to our community.”
Months of planning pays off for her on the day of the event itself, LaValley remarked. “It’s a time when we celebrate with friends, greet neighbors, and have a fun time.
“To see the smiles on kids’ faces when they march in the parade, and play the carnival games, makes it a wonderful day for me,” LaValley added.
The day’s steady rain this year might have discouraged some participants from joining the parade, which travels through a good part of the neighborhood. But many intrepid marchers showed up in rain gear – and even broke out umbrellas – to take part in the procession.
St. Agatha Catholic School Principal Chris Harris told us he was enjoying this local tradition for the first time. “In fact, this is the event to which I've been most looking forward. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing for the festival and the parade, and I’m seeing that effort pay off.”
Impressive to him, Harris reflected, is that it is truly a community event. “We’re delighted that the Sellwood Middle School Marching Band turns out in force, and it’s wonderful to see all the different organizations and groups that come together to be part of this celebration.”
In the main festival tent, the Clackamas Fire Fighters’ Pipes & Drum Corps kicked off the day. The main stage offered revelers plenty of live music and Irish dance demonstrations.
Highlights of the carnival, held in the school’s gym, were once again the “Cake Walk”, and green cotton candy floss – in addition to the many carnival games of chance and skill.
After participating in these activities, many families availed themselves of the food, which was themed for the occasion.
The day is also a fundraiser, LaValley pointed out. “This helps us provide special events for our students, and fund our arts programs and other departments. So, it’s having fun, and raising funds – a good combination.”
St. Agatha School in the Sellwood district of Southeast Portland has acadeemic and service programs that have been rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years.
Benedictine Father Nathan Zodrow, former abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, presides over weekly student Masses and plays a vital role in the education at St. Agatha.
Older students learn responsiblity and provide leadership to younger students as they attend Mass together in familly groups.
New principal settling in at St. Agatha School in Portland
The Catholic Sentinel, November 2014
St. Agatha School in the Sellwood district of Southeast Portland has a new principal, Chris Harris. He took the post July 1 at the 220-student institution.
"This is an incredible community, and I am excited and honored to serve as principal of St. Agatha," said Harris. "It is inspiring to see such a dedicated staff, committed group of parents and community members put the students first. The spirit around campus is tangible, and I look forward to working with everyone here to enhance and further develop the educational opportunities for our children: Helping them to grow academically, socially and spiritually to best prepare them for their futures."
“We are looking forward to planning for and growing our Catholic school with Chris at the helm," said Benedictine Father Nathan Zodrow, pastor of St. Agatha Parish.
Harris spent the past five years serving as third grade teacher, technology coordinator, head of the drama department, and principal intern at St. Francis of Assisi School in Seattle. Before that he taught kindergarten, third and fourth grades at St. Elisabeth Catholic School in Los Angeles.
He earned a master's degree in educational administration and supervision for St. Martin's University in Lacey, Washington. He graduated magna cum laude from Gonzaga University in Spokane, witha bachelor's degree in theater arts and elementary education.
Harris grew up in Portland where he attended St. Anthony School in Tigard and graduated from LaSalle High School in Milwaukie. "I am grateful for the opportunity to return to my roots and be closer to family," said Harris, who is relocating back to Portland with wife Siobhan and their 9-month-old son.
Education runs in his blood. His mother, Sue Harris, is the princpal at St. Cecilia Catholic School in Beaverton and has served in Catholic education for more than 30 years.
Two new faculty members have joined St. Agatha. Arnaud Prevot is K-8 technology teacher and resident tech coodinator. He worked six years in the Seattle area as a faculty technology advisor and also taught French and Spanish. He holds a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish from the University of Dallas, a master's degree in business administration from the same institution, along with a doctorate from Argosy University in Seattle.
Michelle Collins is a Portland-area music teacher, writer and mother of three. After graduation with a bachelor's degree in music education, she began a teaching career in public and private schools.
St. Agatha students serve
The Catholic Sentinel, October 2014
Seventy-six St. Agatha middle school students gave back to local and state community members in need by volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank this fall.
Students, staff and parents sorted more than 5,000 pounds of pinto beans, adding ingredient labels and instructions on how to cook and serve.
The volunteer effort provided more thatn 4,000 meals for the hungry, with an average of 44 meals prepared by each student.
Students reported feeling good knowing they were able to provide so much assistance and good will.
"This was a great way to kick off our service learning for the year, and support our Friends of St. Agatha annual giving theme of "the common good," says Chris Harris, new princpal at St. Agatha.
Serving others is a vital element of the education offered. Middle school students volunteer a minimum of 32 hours.
First graders recently raised change and made dog toys to support the Fences for Fido program.
"At. St. Agatha we work to develop students who are well rounded, who think for themselves but also think about others - how they can incorporate their love of God and his world beyond themselves," says Brandi Harris, first grade teacher.
The school building, constructed in 2003, offers a large gymnasium, a center for students with additional needs, and science and technology labs.
Arnaud Prevot assisted in expansion of the technology program.
"Teaching at St. Agatha is more than a job, it is about doing good and meaningful work to better the lives of the students," Prevot says.
St. Agatha kids give Lions Club
By DAVID F. ASHTON for THE BEE, January 2015
For several years, members of the Oaks Bottom Lions Club have joined with other clubs in the region to provide eye examinations and eyeglasses to patients they serve in Mexico or other Central American countries.
“Lions Club member Frances Shaw told how many of the older gentlemen of the villages, who come to get eyeglasses, like to wear neckties when they come to the clinic,” explained Jan Hainley, a St. Agatha Catholic School graduate, substitute teacher, parishioner, and the grandparent of a student.
“Last year, the school collected neckties for them to take with them, as gifts to the village men,” Hainley told THE BEE.
Hearing that children who also visit the clinics enjoy playing with “Hot Wheels” toy vehicles, Hainley’s grandson suggested that the school collect new and used toy cars.
“We put out a basket and sign in the front lobby, and people have been very generous,” Hainley said. “483 both new and gently-used ‘Hot Wheels’ toy cars will go down, when they visit the children in Mexico this year.”
To receive the gift was Frances Shaw, a member of the Oaks Bottom Lions Club. “Clubs from the region will be taking about 9,000 eye glasses this year to the Mexico Eye and Health Clinic at El Municipio de Juchipila, Mexico, where we provide services to about 2,000 people.”
Having toys helps at the clinic, Shaw said, “Because at the clinic we also check for blood pressure, and diabetes, well as do vision screening. So, the clients see us at the clinic from three to four hours a day and they usually come in families.
“At the end of their visit, we like to give small gifts,” Shaw explained. “Some of our other Lions clubs donate toothbrushes and toothpaste as well. But the kids have to wait a long time, so it’s nice to have small toys that we can take and give to them.
And, to the St. Agatha Catholic School families, Shaw said, “Thank you so much, for helping our mission.”