Memorial Day has taken on a renewed meaning since our nation has been constantly engaged in military operations in the fight against terrorism. Usually thought of as “The Start of Summer,” or the day when the pool is opened, Memorial Day has once again become a day where we remember and honor those individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives by defending our nation, as well as remember those who put their lives on the line in the military every day. Many communities still hold parades which conclude at a local cemetery where a memorial service is led by members of the local clergy. It seems to be the one holiday where the boundaries separating Church and State diminish.
For Catholics, a Memorial Day Mass is an excellent way to remember those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith. Honoring their sacrifice by remembering them and being thankful for them is exactly what we express as a Eucharistic people. The Liturgy of the Eucharist recalls the sacrifice that Christ made for us, so that we might have eternal life. From the Greek, the word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.”
So why is it poorly utilized? At least it may be by many of our schools. Memorial Day is seen as a “day off” from school, and a time to spend with friends and family…where a cookout is commonplace. But after Mass and/or the parade, and before the cookout dinner, why don’t we open our schools to celebrate our community of learners. This is an excellent time for a mid-day open house! Many parents are off from work, so to open the school from 11 AM until 1 or 2 PM might be a way to capture those parents that don’t have time in the evening to come to an open house, or can’t take time off from work during this busy time of the year. It’s right before the end of the school year, so it provides a respite from the bustle associated with all those things happening with the students at the end of the school year. Grill some hot dogs for lunch, and invite prospective parents to come and see; invite current parents to remember those alumni that have sacrificed to make your school what it is today; and invite the community and benefactors. Be sure to have a list of “memorial opportunities” available for their review. Perhaps each of your classrooms can become memorial opportunities to help build your school’s endowment for those generations yet to come.
Too late for this year, you may say, since your school might be one of those that end your year on the Friday before Memorial Day, as a number of schools are doing now…but put it on your calendar for next year, plan for it, publicize it, and just as we are to “Never Forget,” don’t forget to do it.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20080526)