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 | By Father Tim MacDonald

Stewardship in Action

For more than 150 years, Catholic families in the Jackson area have focused on forming saints and scholars. Father Tim MacDonald, pastor of Queen of the Miraculous Medal and dean of Jackson, shares the history — and hope — surrounding this work.

In 1873, 13 states had yet to be formed. It was 64 years before there was a Diocese of Lansing, and yet there was already a Catholic school in Jackson thanks to the stewardship of the faithful.

Their first school, St. John, was established in 1873 and reflected the high value they placed on Catholic education. St. Mary Star of the Sea School opened 16 years later, and Queen of the Miraculous Medal commenced operations in 1941. Lumen Christi Catholic School welcomed its first students in 1968. 

As we reflect on 150 years of Catholic education in Jackson, we are looking back and we are looking ahead.

At a time when schools are closing across the country, the pastors and principals of Jackson County are stepping out in faith, and came together like never before to form the Jackson Catholic Schools in 2019. This is a first-of-its-kind “system within a system” in the Diocese of Lansing. Forming the Jackson Catholic Schools (JCS) has allowed us to combine our talent and our resources to raise standards and test scores across all our schools and to work toward higher teacher pay and retention, along with marketing and enrollment outreach to fill our classrooms.

None of this would be possible without the generous stewardship of faith-filled Catholics and business leaders all over Jackson County and beyond.

Since its founding, the JCS office has operated at no expense to the parishes within the system, thanks to the generous support of bequests and sponsors who offset the cost of running an office with its own professional staff. Thanks to these gifts, we now have a president, chief academic officer, a chief finance officer, a philanthropy office, a director of marketing and enrollment, and a special events coordinator. 

This professional staff has helped our system to increase enrollment, increase teacher pay, and serve new constituencies. Once serving only Jackson County residents, JCS buses and vans now go outside Jackson County to pick up students in Albion and Marshall to our west and Chelsea in the east. Besides increasing academic standards and professional development at all our schools, being a system has freed each parish and school to pursue long-delayed capital improvements. In recent years, St. John School has redone its parking lots and replaced the windows, St. Mary’s just added all-new classroom furniture and brightened their hallways, Queens School has new boilers and windows, and Lumen Christi is redoing their classrooms and enhancing their athletic facilities. A single donor even paid to reroof the Lumen chapel! All our schools now feature life-saving boot lock systems that will protect our children from outside dangers. 

None of this is possible without stewardship from individuals, families, and businesses who see Catholic schools as what they were always meant to be: the greatest tool for evangelization the Church has ever been given besides the Gospel! 

One of the most recent and exciting developments JCS leadership brought about — with the help of generous, anonymous donors — is the addition of the Blessed Carlo Acutis Learning Center at Lumen Christi. Paid for entirely with donated funds, the new facility aims to be a state-of-the-art learning resource center for differently abled students and those with special needs. 

It's named for Carlo Acutis, an Italian teen who died of leukemia shortly before his 16th birthday in 2006. A soccer player who loved video games, Carlo limited himself to only one hour of gaming per week, spending his time instead on studying eucharistic miracles and dragging his parents on far-flung trips to go see where those miracles occurred. His parents didn’t practice the faith until Carlo’s zeal brought them back. Carlo Acutis is an outstanding contemporary example of sainthood that is so badly needed by today’s youth, who can so easily be manipulated by the culture to turn away from the church. 

Besides graduating students who are well-prepared for college and the workforce, we are humbled and happy that all our schools produce a robust number of converts each year, each of whom now happily embraces the Catholic faith. 

As the diocese embarks on the Stewardship for Saints and Scholars Campaign, the pastors and principals are going to work together to innovate, reinvigorate, renovate, and strengthen our Jackson Catholic Schools to make sure we are here for generations to come. 

With good stewardship from our leadership and partnership with our generous donor base, we hope to raise up many more young saints and scholars like Blessed Carlo Acutis!

Father Tim MacDonald is pastor of Queen of the Miraculous Medal and dean of Jackson.