Lent Around the World

When we think of Lent in the United States, we often think of abstaining from meat, giving up something we enjoy, or adding in a spiritual practice. But there’s a huge range and variety of Lenten (and Pre-Lenten) traditions in other cultures! Find out a bit about what the rest of the world enjoys during this Holy season.

In Denmark, locals celebrate “Fastelavn” the Sunday before Lent begins. On this day, everyone enjoys eating cream or jam-filled pastries, and children dress up in costumes and beat a barrel filled with candy (similar to a piñata). The two children who successfully break the barrel open are crowned “Cat King” and “Cat Queen.” Believe it or not, this is because the barrel didn’t always hold candy — it used to hold a live cat!

British Isles
Did you know that the British Isles have a long-famous Lenten tradition of eating hot cross buns? The cross marking on the bun symbolizes Jesus’ crucifixion, while the spices in the dough represent His embalming.

“Kathari Thetera,” or Clean Monday, commences the Lenten season. The Sunday beforehand, people attend a special evening Mass and ask for forgiveness to start Lent with a clean soul. This holiday also signifies the end of a month of carnival celebrations that take place throughout the country leading up to Lent! Clean Monday is a public holiday, and families enjoy the day at the beach or countryside, often flying kites.

What we know as Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last supper with His Apostles. This day is called Green Thursday (or Grundonnerstag in Germany). There are a variety of speculations as to why this is, but a common one is that since we’ve historically abstained from eating meat, this day is full of green foods and vegetables.

The United Kingdom
Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is a day to indulge and feast before the beginning of Lent. But it’s not just about eating pancakes — in Britain, locals enjoy pancake races every year! Members of Parliament and the House of Lords compete in an annual charity race around Victoria Gardens, and each contestant must complete a full lap without dropping the pancake out of their frying pan (although many admit to stuffing extra pancakes in their pockets), all while wearing an apron and white chef’s hat.

St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando private school, is more than just a place to learn; it’s a community. Our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Ash Wednesday

Every year, we gather on Ash Wednesday to receive ashes on our forehead — but do we truly understand the importance of what we’re doing? Learn more about Ash Wednesday and how we prepare for the Easter season and Jesus’s resurrection.

Why Ashes?
Ashes help us remember Genesis 3:19, which tells us that we came from dust, and to dust, we will return. We participate in recognition that we need to repent, turn away from our sin, and be faithful to the Gospel. Ashes serve as a reminder that we are given eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Where Do The Ashes Come From?
The ashes that mark your forehead come from the blessed palm branches that were used for the previous year’s Palm Sunday Mass. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and blessed with prayers that are thousands of years old.

The Original Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday marks Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and everyone gathered to celebrate his arrival by waving palm fronds. This was the beginning of the final seven days of Jesus’s earthly ministry.

Ash Wednesday signifies our preparation for Holy Week and the resurrection of Jesus. We come to God and ask for mercy, forgiveness, and compassion, and we repent of our sins. By doing so, in 40 days, we are able to celebrate Easter with the joy that God intended!

Ashes in the Bible
Over 40 passages in the Bible associate ashes with grief and mourning. In the Old Testament, people used ashes as a sign of repentance. Daniel 9 says that Daniel “turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes,” and Job 42 shows that Job repented “in dust and ashes.” The Ninevites did the same when Jonah came to them. In Esther 4, Mordecai learns of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jewish people and tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth and ashes, and “went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.”

Don’t Wash Them Away
In the Middle Ages, ashes were not drawn in a cross on the forehead; they were sprinkled across the head. Now, we leave them on our head as a sign of humility. This is a great opportunity to talk to the people in your life about your faith!

St. Charles Borromeo, a private school in Orlando, is more than just a place to learn; it’s a community. Our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Teacher Spotlight: Mary Anne Patchett

Since 1990, Mary Anne Patchett has been a proud member of the St. Charles Borromeo family. Learn more about Ms. Patchett, her love for teaching, and her passion to transform students into compassionate, responsible leaders of the future.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Daytona Beach and grew up in Longwood, FL.

What subjects do you teach?
I teach 6th-grade World History, 7th-grade Civics and Government, and 8th-grade U.S. History.

What do you like to do for fun?
In college, I worked in a film lab, so photography is definitely a hobby of mine! Besides that, I love the beach and I love to travel, and it’s wonderful to travel to places that you teach about. A few years ago I went to Greece and to be able to share my experiences with the students is incredibly valuable.

Where have you traveled?
I’ve been to England, Ireland, Italy, and Greece. It’s hard to pick a favorite! They’re all so unique. Egypt is on my list next.

When did you know that you wanted to become a teacher?
Teaching wasn’t a plan until I was maybe in high school or college; it was a slow process! But I found out that it was something that I was good at and really enjoyed. I actually started off teaching elementary school. I’ve only been in middle school for 5 or 6 years, but I taught 5th grade for close to 20 years before this.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching social studies?
I think what’s interesting — especially when we talk about the government — is that it’s constantly changing. When we talk about elections and current events, it’s important that we prepare [students] for the world they’re going to be living in and responsible for. We teach them that they’re going to be important leaders and forces of change.

How do you engage your students in the learning process?
I engage the students by showing them respect and expecting it in return. It’s important that they know that you love them and that you care about who they are as individuals. I try to build relationships with them, and I teach with a loving firmness and mutual respect.

Sometimes they’ll surprise you! And sometimes you have to remind them that they know more than they think, and they shouldn’t underestimate themselves. Their opinions mean something, and they should keep striving for their best.

What do you hope your students take away from being in your classroom?
I hope they’re able to think on their own and problem solve. They’re going to be working in jobs and careers that don’t exist yet, and I want them to know that what I did for them was out of love and respect. Teachers want to see success; teachers want to see our students do well, and that’s my goal.

As a College Park private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Why Choose St. Charles Borromeo

On March 31, 1954, a parish was established in College Park and named St. Charles Borromeo. Less than a year later on January 24, 1955, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School opened as a junior high school. With an initial enrollment of 65 students in grades 7, 8, and 9, we’ve grown substantially over the years and now teach over 300 students. While our numbers may have grown, we’re proud to offer the same exceptional education that has made us a pillar in the Catholic community.

After Hurricane Michael hit, our fourth graders wanted to help and hosted a bake sale to aid those in need. All proceeds went to Catholic Charities of Central Florida to assist with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael.

A Blue Ribbon School
On October 2, 2007, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School was named by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2007 Blue Ribbon School, one of only 287 in the nation to receive this honor.

Parent Partnerships
Parents are the primary educators of their children, and we believe that it’s truly a privilege to be a part of each student’s learning experience. We are proud to partner with you to help your child grow into a confident, capable member of society.

We offer a challenging, rigorous curriculum that challenges students to embrace their full potential, gives them a solid academic foundation, and helps them develop their God-given talents. Our instructors create a safe, comfortable, and healthy learning environment. In this environment, students have the opportunity to grow into enthusiastic, lifelong learners. Teachers get to know each student as an individual and offer differentiated instruction, understanding that students learn in a variety of ways.  

Our National Junior Honor Society members went on a service trip to Clean the World in Orlando.

Thanks to our partnership with Catholic Youth Sports, students are encouraged to participate in a variety of athletic activities from Kindergarten through 8th grade! Sports and team participation teach valuable lessons that are crucial to future success, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, self-discipline.

Our students’ spiritual health is one of our top priorities. Faith is truly incorporated into our daily lives. Between religion classes, monthly and weekly Mass, retreats, daily prayer, and serving the world around us, St. Charles students learn that faith is more than words; it’s about the social responsibility we have as Catholics. We must show others the love of Christ every day.

St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando private school, is more than just a place to learn; it’s a community. Our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Teacher Spotlight: Margaret Borello

Kindergarten teacher Margaret Borello loves being a part of the family at St. Charles Borromeo! Get to know her and how she brings her passion and experience to our institution.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA. At the age of 10, my family relocated to Fort Lauderdale. I remained in South Florida until three years ago when we moved to Lake Mary.

From what school did you graduate? What was your major?
I received my Bachelors of Arts Degree from Stetson University. I was a music major at first but then changed to Elementary Education. Years later, I received my Master’s degree from Barry University in Educational Leadership!

What do you like to do for fun?
I am a lucky mother of three wonderful daughters and a blessed grandmother of three incredible grandsons! My youngest daughter [just gave] me my first granddaughter, and my eldest blessed me with another grandson for Thanksgiving. My favorite thing to do is to be with these babies.

Do you have a favorite book?
My favorite book to read when I was young was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I enjoy the Harry Potter series and one of my favorite books is The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

What did you want to be when you were little?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. For a brief time, I had dreams of being a pop singer, but I always knew I would teach in some way! I’ve been teaching for 30 years, and I’ve taught everything from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade (excluding fourth). I’ve had the pleasure of training and working with teachers through Nova Southeastern University as an Early Childhood Training Facilitator, and I’ve also substituted for high school.

Who was your favorite teacher growing up?
I think my favorite teacher was Mr. Hudson in the fifth grade. He made math so much fun that the “light bulb” finally went off and I got it! However, my inspiration was my music teacher in middle school, Mr. Mel Arnold. He was an incredible musician and loved sharing his gift with his students. In his spare time, he taught music therapy to special needs students. He gave me my first flute — it was his when he began playing.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching kindergarten?
I love to teach kindergarten because of the excitement the children bring to school. They can’t wait to learn, and you can literally see when they understand something for the first time. I try to engage my students with activity, music, and movement. I want my students to not only learn the curriculum but most importantly gain a love for learning. If they love it, there is no stopping them!

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the joy in my students’ faces when they’ve mastered a concept for the first time, or written their first story, or even when they have met a new friend.

What do you hope your students take away from being in your classroom?
I hope my students leave my classroom with a love of learning, a yearning for more, and a kinder heart!

As a College Park private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Life Lessons From the Bible

There are many lessons we can take from the Bible. These stories teach us about forgiveness, obedience, patience, leadership, kindness, love, and courage, and through them, we discover how we can share the love of God with others.

The Bible addresses humility in a variety of places. Philippians 2 says that “in humility, [we should] count others more significant than yourselves.” Jesus, although He was the son of God, was born into nothing and offered Himself as a servant and friend to society’s outcasts. Philippians 2 also instructs us to place the needs of others first and to do nothing selfishly.

We can also learn about humility from Moses. In spite of his impressive accomplishments, the Bible describes Moses as “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Nm 12:3). Moses led the resistance against Pharaoh, triumphed over him, and led the slaves through the Red Sea and the desert to freedom in the promised land. Throughout all of this, Moses stayed modest and humble. He never showered himself in praise or asked others to give him credit for God’s work, and this is important for us to remember.

“I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). We can learn a great deal about courage from Esther. Although God placed her in the right place at the right time to save her people, Esther didn’t know that; she had no idea how anything was going to turn out. She spent three days fasting and praying in preparation for her stand, finding her courage in the Lord rather than in her own spirit, and then went bravely — and unannounced — to the King. We learn that by looking for our bravery in God, we can positively affect the lives of those around us. When we are struggling to be courageous, we can encourage ourselves with the words of Psalm 27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

The Bible in Psalm 116:5 tells us that our “Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion,” and Colossians 3:12 reminds us that as God’s people, we are to “clothe [ourselves] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Compassion is about more than taking pity on someone or feeling bad for them; compassion should drive us to action. And Jesus models this for us over and over again.

In Matthew 20, Jesus asks two blind men what He can do for them, and they say, “Lord, let our eyes be opened. Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.” We see a similar occurrence in Mark 1:40, when “a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, “If you will, you can make me clean. Moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand and touched Him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”

Again in Mark 6:34, Mark 8:2, Matthew 9, and Matthew 14:14, scripture tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion for these crowds that were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” hungry with nothing to eat, and full of the sick and disease that needed His healing hand. Whether it was feeding, healing, providing, or calling others to serve, Jesus’s compassion always led to action. As followers of Christ, we must be the same way.

As a Catholic school in Orlando, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Teacher Spotlight: Karri Gomez

Even when she was young and living in the tiny town of Ponca City, Oklahoma — a town so small that there wasn’t even a McDonald’s until she turned 13 — Karri Gomez knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. My family was either in teaching, farming, or insurance — there was no in between. My parents, aunts, and uncles were teachers. I’ve always had a natural knack for communication and reaching kids,” said Gomez. “I learned [from my family] at a very early age that teaching was more than giving instruction in a classroom setting: it’s about building confidence and life skills.”

Over the years, Gomez watched her family make a difference in their students’ lives and became inspired to do the same in her future classroom. She believes that every experience you have molds you. She moved around frequently as a child, and those experiences strongly affect her approach to teaching. She’s conscious of how every child feels in her classroom and remembers what she would have wanted as a new student.

“We moved around a lot, and when we moved, I got to experience being the new kid — sometimes good, sometimes bad,” said Gomez. “I had teachers that were empathetic and teachers that weren’t. It really taught me what it’s like for a child to experience being new, and I would never want someone to experience the negative things that I did; I really want them to experience the positive things. I want to create an enriching and engaging classroom where students enjoy the learning process.”

In Gomez’s classroom, she makes the curriculum come alive, whether it’s through solving exciting “classroom crimes” with interactive clues or by sharing funny, relatable stories. You’ll never find her at her desk; she’s constantly involved with her students, joyful as she watches them discover new information.

“I’ll teach any grade level, I love them all! But third grade is so much fun. What’s so amazing about this age group is this is when they start to develop their own voice and personality. They take what they’ve learned and really start to apply it,” said Gomez. “They become more independent and mature learners; they become more advanced readers, writers, mathematicians, and thinkers. We go deeper into topics and the students can relate the content to their personal life and experience. This shows up in their writing and everything becomes more personal. It’s so much fun watching them grow throughout the year!”

Not only does Gomez help students grow academically, but spiritually. At the top of every assignment, each student’s paper is headed with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” She loves sharing the Word of God with them and loves watching their eyes light up in the faith-filled moments

“As a teacher, I always say a prayer about the class I’m going to get,” said Gomez. “It’s not so much, “How am I going to get through all this material?” It’s, “Open my eyes to what they need. How can I help them? Who needs help academically? Who needs to challenged? Who is lacking in self-confidence?”

Throughout the year, Gomez gets to know each student as an individual and encourages them to push through challenges. It’s important that each child understands how capable they are and that they can always lean on the Lord, because He will always be there for them.

“I never look at what I do as a job; I love working with my students. I love that I get to learn with them. Building a strong rapport with students is the key to a successful learning experience,” said Gomez. “Students have to know they can come to you. You have to be there for [students] and get to know them. They have to know I’m going to help them, be there for them, and cheer them on.”

As an Orlando private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

How to Prepare for The Advent Season

Christmas season is right around the corner! Our Orlando private school community is excited for the upcoming festivities to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But before then, we want to take time to observe Advent. This is the perfect time to slow down, focus on the meaning of the season, and deepen our relationship with Christ.

Practice Silence
Between holiday parties and social commitments, Christmas is often a loud and busy time. In contrast, Advent is a time to be quiet! Dedicate the beginning of each day to nurturing your relationship with Him by praying for a friend, reading your favorite Bible story, or listening to your favorite worship music on the drive to work.

Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath represents Christ’s eternal love for us. On the wreath, there are four candles: three purple and one pink. There’s also a white candle in the center of the wreath. The purple candles represent our preparation for the Messiah through things such as prayer and fasting, the pink candle represents our joy for His coming, and the white candle — also called the Christ Candle — represents His purity and ability to wash away our sins. The colored candles are lit each Sunday to remind us of the light Christ delivers compared to the darkness of sin.

Give to Charity
God calls us to serve others, and Advent is in the heart of the giving season! There’s a surplus of giving opportunities around the holidays, so consider donating your time to serving your community. If free time is scarce during the busy holiday season, you and your family could also set money aside to give toward the charity of your choosing.

Daily Devotional
Sometimes what we need is a small dose of nourishment through a devotional. This can be done on your own, or you can gather friends and family to complete the devotionals together. You may be surprised how many people would love some company while digging into the Bible! You can hold each other accountable, help answer each other’s questions, and encourage one another when you become frustrated or confused.

Nightly Bible Time
Children greatly benefit from observing the Advent season! If you don’t already have nightly Bible time, Advent is an excellent opportunity to spend evenings talking about the Bible together. As Christmas gets closer, spend your time reading about the birth of Jesus, and talk to your children about what we can learn from Advent.

As an Orlando private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Finish School Projects Quickly and Efficiently

There’s only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to schedule enough time for homework, much less fit in group projects, where you have to coordinate your schedule with classmates. St. Charles Borromeo, a College Park private school, loves the collaboration and teamwork that happens in group projects — they’re great practice for the future! Here are a few tips for making them as quick, efficient, and stress-free as possible.

Assign and Record Tasks

Start by having a conversation as a whole team about what needs to be done, and make sure no one leaves before you’ve decided who is responsible for what. You can save a lot of time by first deciding who is going to take on each part of the project! You don’t have to worry about two people doing the same thing — or risk an important step being skipped. Make a record of who has what job, when they need to finish by, and how the team can help them.

Communicate Often

If you need help from another group member or have a question, make sure you communicate this as soon as possible. When you talk early and often, you can prevent small problems from becoming big problems. Decide on the best communication method, such as a group texting app, and set a rule for how often members have to check their messages and respond accordingly.

Don’t Wait to Start Your Work

Treat your group project with the same care that you’d give your own work. Don’t put your work aside until the last minute; you may end up needing help from a team member that they don’t have time to give, or you might not have enough time to finish your part. Treat your team members the same way you wish to be treated!

Support Your Teammates

Everyone loves knowing that their work is appreciated. One way you can help your project succeed is by supporting your team. If someone did an amazing job, congratulate them! If someone helped out without being asked, thank them. And if someone’s struggling to get their part done, reach out and ask how you can help. This level of support is key for getting good work done fast.

St. Charles Borromeo and other College Park private schools aren’t the only places your child will experience group projects. Most of our lives include working with other people to get something done. By using these tips, you can put together a project deserving of that A grade — and you can get it done long before it’s due.

Teacher Spotlight: Lillie Gelfand

Lillie Gelfand’s whole life was in Florida. But when her husband was transferred up north, she moved to Connecticut. He thrived in the icy winters and she loved watching him thrive, even though she preferred the warm.

“It was heaven for him, freezing for me!” said Gelfand. “He was also a trumpet player — an amazing trumpet player, a performance trumpet player. He graduated from Julliard. My husband was only 45 years old; he was so young, he passed away unexpectedly. It was a shock. I came back [to Florida] alone and started over by myself, trying to grasp what was happening in my life.”

Upon returning to Florida, Gelfand first went to Palm Beach County, where there was the comfort of friendly faces and familiar places. But it was challenging to return to a place where she’d spent so much time with her husband, and she was ready to start over. However, she still loved Palm Beach County and her memories of growing up surrounded by music. She discovered her passion at age 10 when she learned to play the trumpet. This led her to join the band at Fort Lauderdale High School later on, and during her senior year, her band director had two different guests come to class.

The first was a composer from a university in Tennessee. They were playing his music, and one of his pieces had two difficult trumpet solos — and Gelfand got to play both. “He was the first person who ever said to me, ‘You should go to college and major in music.’ It had never entered my mind to do that, ever,” said Gelfand.

The second guest, the orchestra director from Brown Community College, said something similar: “‘I want you in my orchestra. I want you to come major in music.” Thus, Brown Community College became the place where Gelfand began her musical education, before going on to graduate from Florida Atlantic University.

Gelfand spent the early years of her teaching career in Palm Beach County. After moving back from Connecticut, she interviewed at St. Charles Borromeo, but decided to return home to Palm Beach, where she started two part-time jobs that she loved. But when spring break of 2014 came around, Gelfand came to Orlando for her daughter’s wedding — and she got a phone call.

“I was still up here because I was watching her dog, and it was my spring break. I answered the phone because it was an Orlando area code. It was the same principal who had tried to hire me previously, and she asked if I would reconsider taking the job; she asked when I could come to Orlando. I went over that same day and talked to her,” said Gelfand. “I wanted a fresh start, my daughter was here, and I was getting offered this job a second time. I was thinking, ‘There must be a reason. God must want me to be at this school for some reason. I’m going to take this job.’”

In the five years since Gelfand accepted the position, she’s loved watching the music program flourish. Just this year, the band has grown from seven students to 38, and the chorus from 15 to 35. She’s enjoyed singing fun, silly songs with three-year-olds; she’s watched 8th graders create impressive TV jingles; she’s taught students everything from musical composition to famous composers to how music affects our daily lives.

“I see kids who have never, ever read music or picked up an instrument, and have no idea what’s happening — get it. It’s the joy of what I do,” said Gelfand. “I absolutely love being able to watch my students grow and see what they accomplish. That’s the reason I love working at a PreK-8 school. I always tell them, my goal isn’t to make music teachers out of you! My goal is to share my passion for music with you; my knowledge. And to give you the opportunity to do something you never thought could do, which is to play music or perform onstage. I’ve had parents tell me how they can tell I love what I do, and that’s what I want. I hope my students get that I do what I do because I love it, and I want to share that with them.”

As a private school in Orlando, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.