ELMHURST – St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Academy students became teachers on Monday, January 31, when Bishop Robert Brennan visited his classes at the beginning of Catholic School Week 2022.
The SBCA robotics team – called “Sharp Blades” – has demonstrated its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills by applying them to a real-world problem: pollution from cargo ships in New York Harbor.
The team described how alternative fuels and mechanical applications can be used to help restore the port’s ecosystems. Eighth grader Jesson Phagoo and 7th grader Mauricio Sosa operated small, motorized Lego robots to simulate more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to unload goods. Sharp Blades will compete with these robots in February in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Queens Qualifiers robotics competition.
There were a few small errors in their demonstration, which led the students to admit, “It’s a work in progress.” However, Bishop Brennan was fascinated by the ingenuity of the team members.
“It’s amazing,” he told them. “And I’m glad to see that it’s a work in progress. I’d rather see that and see how you overcome the problem later. I’m really proud of you. “
Bishop Brennan spoke about Catholic education and his commitment to it, just before he was installed in November to lead the Brooklyn Diocese. He said he was looking forward to meeting students, teachers, administrators and parents at diocesan schools during the week.
For more than 50 years, Catholic Schools Week has highlighted how Catholic education benefits children across the country in learning about their faith, academia, and service to humanity.
“I had the chance to visit several schools along the way,” Bishop Brennan said before visiting St. Bartholomew. “But now I’m excited to be able to dedicate this week in a very intense way to visiting schools.”
“From the moment I arrived at this school, I could see how impressive it is, just like many of our schools,” he added. “I have met a number of parents and I have a deep sense of appreciation for what the school does for their children and also for some of the support provided through the Futures in Education scholarships. It really does make a difference. ”
Father Rick Beuther, pastor of St. Bartholomew’s Parish, called the SBCA “a place of mission,” where parents sacrifice to send their children and where that sacrifice “rewards” the way students are guided in their Catholic faith and in knowledge of important topics such as STEM.
Danielle Tuble and Nicholas Borja, both eighth graders, said their Catholic faith was strengthened by science.
“It’s great because you think science and religion are not the same, they’re not together,” Tuble said, “when in fact there are things that correlate.”
“What is happening,” Borja added, “is that science makes religion seem much more detailed and more planned. As with DNA, it’s really complicated and very precise. And it’s in every cell. It just makes you think about how God programmed us. ”
Father Beuther estimated that about 5,000 parishioners attend Mass at St. Bartholomew’s every Sunday, adding that about 70 percent are from Latin American countries and 30 percent are from Asian nations. Kindergarten through 8th grade enrollment reflects those demographics, he said.
“Most of our parents here in the academy were not born here in this country,” said Father Beuther. “I would say that many of our families are without documents, some are dreamers, on the road, but all of them are from the first generation who believe in the Church. And they believe in the community of the Church. ”
SBCA principal Denise Gonzalez estimated that approximately 65% of the 162 students came from undocumented families. She said 70 of these families receive scholarships from the diocese.
“Our families are very dedicated to the education of their children – a faith-based Catholic education,” she said. “And so they sacrifice themselves, especially after the pandemic when they are fighting economically. They still want to keep their children here. ”