BCACS Mission Statement

Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, in partnership with parents, community and the Catholic Church, provide students with an excellent education and solid faith formation. Students will know the Faith, share the Faith, and live the Faith.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"I will never cut down my friends"

When celebrated Battle Creek artist Richard Schlatter came to St. Joseph Elementary last Thursday, it wasn’t as the ArtPrize 2017’s grand prize winner, but as a storyteller.

“One of my ministries is visiting elementary schools, reading my book to second-grade classes, and then giving each student a signed copy of my book,” Mr. Schlatter said in his ArtPrize biography. “It is one of my ways of giving back to the community.”

One of the schools he reached out to after winning ArtPrize was St. Joseph.

“He actually contacted my mother in law to see if the second-grade class at St Joseph would be interested,” Aimee Downey, preschool teacher, said.

They were.

Mr. Schlatter read “The Old Man and the Tree” to Barbie Carrier’s second-grade class – a book he wrote and illustrated.

The story begins with a young man planting a tree in his yard. Over the years, the tree becomes a friend. He takes care of it and the tree offers him shade. Eventually, the man grows tired of pulling seeds out of his gutters and raking his yard, so he decides to cut the tree down.

“He can't bring himself to do it because he thinks of the tree as a friend, so he hires someone to do it,” Mrs. Carrier said. “He is very sad afterward.”

The old man finds a maple seed on the ground, which he plants and cares for, hoping someone will enjoy the new tree as much as he did his old friend.

The story is not a work of fiction. It was Mr. Schlatter’s own experience, which he shaped into a story for his granddaughter.

“One of the students loved that the story he wrote was based on him and was a true story,” Mrs. Carrier said.

Mr. Schlatter shared the artistic process of creating the book with the children.

“He showed them his original sketches and then the sketches after he had colored them with colored pencils,” Mrs. Carrier said. “[The students] loved being able to see both the before and after. I feel like it gave some of [our students] inspiration.”

Thanks to the generosity of Marilyn and Ralph Calladine, friends of Mr. Schlatter and our BCACS, each child received a copy of the book, personally signed by Mr. Schlatter, who had the children make a vow.

“I will never cut down my friends.”

“Our second-grade students were so fortunate to learn about the writing and illustrating process first-hand from Mr. Schlatter,” Cathy Erskine, BCACS enrollment director said. “The positive message his book conveyed about friendship and caring for one another is especially meaningful.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The voices of Homecoming 2017

Today’s BCACS Blog takes a first-person look at Homecoming Week 2017.

Forget the dress code
Spirit Week was a little like Halloween. Each class was given a decade. Each day was given a theme for which the students dressed according to their decade’s interpretation. Friday, however, was set aside for Spirit Day. The more the red, the better!
“I enjoyed Spirit Day on Friday because I got to see everyone’s school spirit – all the red and all the decorations for the halls.”
~McKenzee Kositzke, freshman

Back in Black?
The students showed up for class on the Monday of Spirit Week only to see most of their teachers had taken up the habit – the religious habit.
“The theme on Monday was school uniform and when we were thinking about what we would wear as teachers right away both Mrs. Janke and myself said – ‘Nuns!’”
~Kyra Rabbitt, director of student services, freshmen class advisor

Lip Sync Battle
The Lip Sync Battle was a 2017 Homecoming premier and it was a hit. Each fall sports team prepared a lip sync routine to perform in front of the school. The staff determined the winner using a rubric of originality, dance moves and “lip-sync-ability”. The cross-country team took the top spot with their joyful interpretation of “His Banner over Me is Love.”
“I think it was a lot of fun for everybody in the school even the teachers. I think [the cross-country team] won because we just went out and enjoyed ourselves and didn’t worry about embarrassing ourselves.”
~Ben Rutherford, sophomore

Macho Volleyball
St. Philip and volleyball excellence go hand-in-hand. We know our Lady Tigers can handle themselves on the court, but during Homecoming Week, it’s the boys’ turn. Macho Volleyball returned and this year’s competition was fierce.
"It was an awesome display of school spirit. Everyone was engaged and cheering on their classmates and it carried on to the Pink Game Thursday night."
~Vicky Groat, St. Philip High School principal

Pink Game
Thursday of Spirit Week had a special meaning as the volleyball team played its annual Pink Game, which raises money for Borgess’ Tree of Love. This year was personal as two volleyball alums are battling breast cancer. Both served as honorary coaches as our Lady Tigers defeated cross-town rival Climax-Scotts.
“It was an amazing experience. It made us “play for a purpose” and encouraged us to fight harder. The words of motivation that Kelly and Megan said to us, we took to heart and fought back harder. It was great to be a part of something so special and moving. 
~Kirstin Finnila, senior

Decking the Halls
Each class decorated a school hallway on Friday in their “decade”. Over the weekend, alumni and teachers voted for the best one. This year’s winner was the sophomore class, whose 1950’s hallway included a white and black checkered floor and a jukebox.
“I think the sophomores won because we have more to bring to the table in terms of creativity and we work really well as a team.”
~Adam Sprague, sophomore

Bonfire Night
The Friday night bonfire is a school-wide party at Walsh Field. The junior girls squared off against the senior girls in the annual powder puff game, each class squared off against each other in a tug-of-war, the Homecoming Court took a run down the field, and the night finished with a fabulously large bonfire.
“I really enjoyed hanging out with all my friends and watching my grade play in powder puff. It was really entertaining and enjoyable to watch.”
~Joey Janoski, junior

The Spirit Cup Champions
"We are the best class ever.” ~Uriel Gaona, senior
Homecoming Week activities are just about fun, they’re about points. Each class earns points for the competitions they win, resulting in one overall champion. This year, the seniors walked away with the coveted “Spirit Cup”.
"The seniors are really excited about winning the spirit cup during Homecoming week. We were excited to end our last Homecoming together with a bang!"
~Madison Haywood, senior class president

The Homecoming Parade
Wearing their smart uniforms, plumed hats, and black shoes, the St. Philip Marching Band led the high school down VanBuren Street to the C.W. Post Field in style during annual Homecoming Parade.
“My favorite part of parade marching is seeing the reaction of small kiddos who become so fascinated and excited when they see the band marching and playing. Not only does it make my heart happy but it also helps recruitment because many of these excited kids become future marching band members.”
~Laura Bandlow, marching band director, and band teacher

The King & Queen of 2017
The Homecoming Court took their ride down Van Buren street in the annual Homecoming parade and walked onto the field with their parents at halftime. It's the moment we've all been waiting for – the 2017 Homecoming Queen and King are Lili Robinson and Kenny Wojcik.
“I strive to be friends with everyone in our school and relate to them and this proved to me that it worked. I feel a lot closer to my classmates and students throughout the school.”
~Lili Robinson, senior

Time to "reunion"
It is a tradition for the St. Philip Alumni to come home and “reunion” together at the school. This year was extra-special as it marked St. Philip High School Centennial. Over 150 alumni came from all over the country to celebrate together.
“It was great to see alumni of all ages, parents of alumni, and community members reminiscing about St Philip High School, the nuns, and teachers who have taught there over the years.”
~Louanne McIntyre, BCACS Foundation director

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"These kids are my vitamins"

St. Joseph preschool teacher Kelly Francisco considers BCACS a family. Her father worked there, she graduated from there, her husband graduated from there, and her children now attend there. But it took breast cancer to reveal the depth of her school family.

“I wouldn’t say [having cancer] is a blessing, but it has definitely shown me why I send my kids here,” Mrs. Francisco said.

When Mrs. Francisco received her diagnosis, she knew she wanted to keep teaching. Her fellow teachers and classroom aides helped her make a plan. Together, they told staff, parents, and students.

“I explained to my students that Miss Kelly has a boo-boo inside of her and I have to take it out,” Mrs. Francisco said. “The kids were really good about it.”

The kids weren’t the only ones.

“Teachers from all over, parents from this year and the past started bringing these gifts – anything they thought I would need for recovery,” Mrs. Francisco said.

Retired teacher Penna Maichele made a “Hope” quilt. Every BCACS student, teacher, and administrator signed a board with the words “I am not fighting alone”. St. Joseph staff members Jeanine Winkler and Don Shafer collected student well wishes in a book. Fr. Chris Ankley gave her a special blessing.

Teacher’s aide Riki Albert made pink “wish” bracelets for students and their moms. Ms. Albert and preschool teacher Aimee Downey created a photo collage of the children’s hands in prayer, all wearing this bracelet. The caption read, “God is watching over you. We know because we asked him to.”

St. Philip principal Vicky Groat asked Mrs. Francisco, a former St. Philip volleyball player, to be an honorary coach at the team’s annual “Pink Game”, which raises money for Borgess’ Tree of Life.

“That’s the thing about our schools if something happens to any of the people in our family the whole community comes out and helps,” Mrs. Groat said.

On the day of her mastectomy, administrative assistant Lee Papke organized a rosary before school with Mrs. Francisco. All the staff was there, wearing pink.

“I was supposed to take six weeks off [for the mastectomy], but I took two.” Mrs. Francisco said. “The reason I took two is this is my second family – these kids are my vitamins. They help me get through every day and so does the staff.”

Mrs. Francisco’s prognosis is good and she plans to work through her remaining treatments. Parents and teachers continue to overwhelm her with support and encouragement.

“The outpouring of love and affection I’ve gotten has made going through this a lot easier,” Mrs. Francisco said. “This is why I send my kids to St. Joseph. It’s not just a school – we’re a family.”

Want to join the fight against breast cancer?
October 5th is the St. Philip Volleyball Team's annual "Pink Game" to raise money for Borgess Tree of Love, which offers free mammograms to underinsured women. The JV game starts at 5:30, with the Varsity game to follow. Former team members and current breast cancer fighters Kelly Francisco and Meghan (Downey) Darlington will be honorary coaches. There will be a 50/50 raffle, a prize raffle, a serving contest for free pizza, "pink" treats at the concession stand, and "TIGERS ROAR against Cancer" T-shirts available for purchase. Direct donations can be made for the Tree of Love on site.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The classroom of service

“I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” James 2.18

There was a lot of work to do on the St. Joseph Parish grounds before Superfest opened. Amid the thuds of hammers and the buzz of drills was the sound of laughter. Fresh from school Mass, St. Joseph eighth-graders went up and down the parish center stairs carrying oversize items for the silent auction.

They weren’t skipping class. They were practicing their faith.

Learning about the faith is important. But as St. James asks, “What good is it…if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

Our BCACS believes following Christ means caring for our church and our neighbors. Students start as soon as pre-school, bringing cans of food for the needy at Mass and offering prayers for the sick in class. Just as students’ understanding of the Catholic faith deepens each year, so does their understanding of Christian service.

St. Joseph Middle School transitions students from simple acts of service to sustained community awareness. The school coordinates student projects with organizations like Haven of Rest, Hands-On Battle Creek, Operation Shoebox, Community Inclusive Recreation, the Charitable Union, the Salvation Army, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and our three Battle Creek Catholic parishes.

“We are trying to give them the idea that when they get out of school their community will be much greater,” Don Shafer, St. Joseph Middle School Theology teacher, said.

By eighth grade graduation, every student will have clocked a minimum of 45 service hours. Many students will exceed that number.

Service plays an important role in preparing our middle school students for Confirmation, which is why specific service hours are reserved for Corporal or Spiritual Acts of Mercy.

“We want them to understand what it means to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and tie [these Corporal Acts of Mercy] to some very basic beliefs we have in the Catholic faith,” Mr. Shafer said. “We’re trying to promote what that looks like and how we can help those people who are less fortunate.”

Although the school prays the rosary regularly together, each student must offer a minimum of four rosaries on their own. It is a great way to employ one of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy – to pray for the living and the dead.

Having students help with Mass and parish-based service projects, like Sunday Suppers or the Giving Tree, lays a pathway to adulthood in the church.

“[These projects] get our kids into the parish to see what it is like to support the church,” Mr. Shafer said.

This on-the-job training for life as a Christian is more than an education, it is following in the footsteps of Christ.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Need a Buddy? Take a seat.

There three benches on the St. Joseph playground, but the yellow one is special. If you need a friend, you take a seat.

St. Joseph Elementary Preschool and TK teacher Amiee Downey first saw a Buddy Bench during her family vacation in Holland. Children sat there if they needed a friend or stopped there to make a new friend.

It reminded Mrs. Downey of her older daughters, one of whom was more reserved and the other who was more outgoing.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that would be perfect for our girls’,” Mrs. Downey said. “Ellery could sit on it in hopes someone would come ask her to play and Leah could make some new friends and be the one asking everyone to play.”

It seemed natural to bring a Buddy Bench to St. Joe, especially for new students for whom recess can be stressful. Mrs. Downey pitched the idea to the staff and won swift approval.

Mrs. Downey and her husband chose the most centrally located playground bench and painted it bright yellow, lettering “Buddy Bench” in purple.

“We introduced it right at the start of the year to go along with all of our friendship units,” Mrs. Downey said. “The rules behind it are simple. If you want to play with someone and don't know whom to ask, you sit on the bench. If someone comes and asks you to play, you graciously accept and give it a try.”

The response has been wonderful, especially from the younger grades.

“I have seen children sit on the bench and I've also seen people come up and ask them to play,” Mrs. Downey said. “One child said they like it because they know someone will ask them to play.”

Kindergartener Emma Lumbard told her grandmother, BCACS Enrollment Director, Cathy Erskine, “Yeah, it works. I sat on it and a friend asked me to play."

And those invitations extend to teachers, too.

Enrichment teacher Caroline Greenman sat on the Buddy Bench during her class’ recess, only to have some of her students ask if she “needed a buddy”.

Following the Buddy Bench rules, Mrs. Greenman graciously accepted their offer and enjoyed sliding down the slide.

“Nobody ever sits on the Buddy Bench for very long,” Mrs. Downey said.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A family affair for over 100 years

St. Philip High School’s centennial has inspired alumni to celebrate their history. But what about St. Philip’s future alumni?

“As adults, we’re all talking about this and celebrating it, but the kids who are here need to appreciate it,” Kyra Rabbitt, St. Philip history teacher, said.

The school hosted a centennial party for students on September 8th, which included a walking history tour led by Ms. Rabbitt. She based it on the tour BCACS historians Matt Davis, Class of 1979, and Sheri (Cobb) Robotham, Class of 2003 gave staff this summer.

It started with a video created by St. Joseph assistant-principal, and St. Philip alumni, Katie Reed, Class of 2000.

The seven-minute tribute was laced with testimonials from alumni, all of whom, at some point, referred to St. Philip as “family”.


Ms. Rabbitt took students to the front of the church, explaining that the small Catholic community purchased it from the Quakers in 1867 for $1,200. An elementary school followed in 1911, as well as a high school in 1917 – the very building current students still enter every day.

The tour continued to the school’s original front entrance on Cherry Street, where Ms. Rabbitt talked about the students gathering before class all the way up to 2010. As the tour wove into the Alumni Room, Ms. Rabbitt called attention to historical points of interest before letting students independently explore.

Decades of young faces from black and white photos smiled down on the young faces milling about the room. Students pointed to old band instruments, old football uniforms, even an old photo of English teacher Laura Miller using the school’s first computer.

The air buzzed because teenagers are rarely quiet – not 100 years ago and not now. They asked Ms. Rabbitt if they could paint a bus like the students did in 1995 or make class patches again.

Ms. Rabbitt encouraged them to find out.

At the end, students recorded their reflections for students 100 years from now. Many used the word “family”.

“St. Phil may not be large in numbers, but we are big in heart,” senior Maddy Haywood wrote. “It’s a family connection.”

Senior Trevor Fuller remarked on the many teachers who are St. Philip alumni. “It just shows how much of a sense of family we have here.”

Exchange student Ziije Dong wrote, “People in this school smile a lot. It feels great to study in the school. The building is old, but it’s beautiful.”

“I came here in 9th grade and couldn’t be happier,” senior Morgan Bohannon wrote. “We are one big, happy family!”

At lunchtime, that big, happy family convened on Cherry Street to share cupcakes, hot dogs, games, and the promise of next 100 years.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We begin in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The sign in front of St. Joseph Catholic School is a popular place for a "First Day" photo op
New Year’s Day has nothing on the first day of school, especially at our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools.

In fact, we were so excited to get our school family together, we started a little early.

Before school began, our administrators and staff, in cooperation with Fun Services and the Kaufmann Family, hosted a picnic for students and their families on the St. Joseph School grounds. There was food, inflatables, prizes, and lots of smiles.

Before school began, our teachers attended professional development days, learning, among other things, the history of St. Philip High School from BCACS historians Matt Davis, Class of 1979, and Sheri (Cobb) Robotham, Class of 2003. St. Philip High School turns 100 this school year. It’s a big deal.

Before school began, students came to Meet the Teacher night, middle and high school orientations, band camp, and sports practices.

Finally, on August 28th, the new school year began.

For some, it was their first time away from home. For others, it was the first time managing a locker and changing classes. For freshmen, it was the first day away from the familiar hallways of St. Joe. For new students, it was the first day with their new school family. 

Some goodbyes included photos and tears, others a quick kiss blown from a car window. Either way, when the bell rang, the hellos began.

Our newly-minted eighth-graders throw Ms. Williamson a surprise birthday party the first week of school.
Some were traditional, like Ms. Hamel’s fifth-grade group photo or St. Philip High School’s hot dog picnic on Cherry Street. Some were unique, like the eighth graders throwing math teacher Ms. Williamson a birthday party or the high school students digging deeper into St. Philip’s history.

One hello, however, was universal – the first All-Schools Mass.

Every member of the BCACS family came to St. Joseph Church on Thursday to pray together, including Bishop Paul Bradley.

“For 100 years, our schools have shown that faith is the center of our lives,” Fr. John Fleckenstein said. “The opening school Mass certainly reminds us of that.”

Students from every grade level took a leadership role, whether reading Scripture, taking up the gifts, singing in the choir, or mentoring a younger student through the Mass.

Afterward, students and staff gathered with Bishop Bradley for a group photo – a moment captured in time that will set the stage for hundreds of special moments.

Come June, some of these souls will have received Confirmation, First Reconciliation, or First Communion. Come June, some of these souls will have graduated from high school. Come June, all of these souls will have grown in Christ.

But those are stories for another day. Right now, our backpacks are packed, our pencils are sharp, and our kids have been blessed.

It’s time to begin.