St. Gertrude Students Benefit From School’s Households
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
Ask anyone with ties to St. Gertrude School in Madeira why it’s so special, and the response is likely to be the faith-filled presence of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and the friars, who foster a tradition of preaching truth, practicing virtue and loving one another in Christ. Dedicated faculty, staff and parents round out the school’s commitment to Catholic education.
The school community is particularly proud of its Virtue program, originally created by the sisters to help students learn to be virtuous people. The program operates on a three-year cycle with a year each devoted to the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, explained Travis Johnson, assistant principal. Every month during the school year, the focus is on a particular sub-virtue, such as patience, temperance, zeal, justice, prudence, forgiveness and responsibility.
An integral offshoot of the Virtue program is the school’s Households, described by St. Gertrude parent and creative writing teacher Leah Naumann as “the way in which Christian life is most
Students enter a Household in the second grade and remain throughout their years at St. Gertrude. Two students from each grade level are assigned to each Household, with current eighth graders
taking a leadership role in guiding younger students through grade appropriate prayer and activities related to the sub-virtues for that particular month. Each Household, which meets twice monthly, is named for a saint, including Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Jogues and Cecilia. Brian Wells, junior high youth minister, assists the student leaders with planning and teaching.
During one recent Household gathering, the students focused on the theme of stewardship and sharing their time, talents and treasures. The groups shared how they had witnessed family and friends living stewardship and discussed if it was easy or difficult to do so. The lessons learned in their households are further developed in the classroom, with teachers integrating them into the curriculum.
The Households are “just reflective of who we at St. Gertrude’s are,” said Johnson. “They’re just part of the culture here – teaching the students about loving God and one another, promoting
community and friendship.”
In addition, said Naumann, the Households offer valuable leadership opportunities for the older students and “provide a culture of greater pastoral care for each of the students.”
Current eighth-graders attested to the ways participation has enabled them to develop their leadership skills and grow in their faith.
Vanessa recalls entering her Household as a second-grader years ago and enjoying the experience so much that she could hardly wait to one day become a leader. “I loved it more and more as time
went on and always looked forward to meeting,” she said. “It really helped me grow more confident in my faith, and now I’m grateful to have the chance to share that with younger students. It’s really been helpful to learn how to engage with all sorts of different people.”
“I was really scared when I first joined a household, since I didn’t know any of the other kids,” Lorenzo admitted, “but it really has been the chance to get to know other students of all ages, learn more about my faith and feel comfortable sharing it with others.”
“I’ve learned that leadership isn’t just about standing up and taking control,” added Maya. “It’s about engaging the other students and encouraging them and working together. It’s been really humbling for me to learn along with the younger kids, and I feel like we really become a family. The Households definitely bring the whole school together.”
Graham noted how he much he appreciates the lessons imparted help the students make the connections between their lives and their faith. “It’s not just about learning the virtues, but how to put them into practice in your life and at home. It really makes our faith come alive.”