More than 370 students at the St. Joseph School crowded into the gym Tuesday, decked head-to-toe in black, white and gold. For more than an hour they cheered, clapped and danced to encourage three relay teams as part of the school's celebration of Catholic Schools Week.

The relays don't happen every day, but they're a part of being "joyfully Catholic" at St. Joseph, said Principal Patricia Byrnes.

"We know how to have fun around here," Byrnes said.

St. Joseph is one of several Catholic schools in York County to take part in the national recognition of Catholic schools and their work in communities across the country. The theme this year centers on the schools' being "communities of faith, knowledge and service."


St. Joseph is hosting several events this week that mirror that theme, said development director Lisa Cartwright.

Relays: Tuesday's focus was school spirit, and representatives of the students and faculty teamed up to compete in six rounds of relay races. The teammates used items such as scooters, shoe boxes and crazy hats as they bolted back and forth across the gym, to the frenzied cheering of their classmates.

The entire student body participated in a "Catholic dance" halfway through the races, taught by two staff members dressed in sumo wrestling suits. The faculty and students in kindergarten through sixth grade pumped their fists, jumped in place and spun around to the Backstreet Boys before watching the final three contests, complete with musical chairs.

The event ended with an Olympic-themed awards ceremony, with the gold team receiving gold medals, the white team receiving silver medals and the black team taking home the bronze.

The fun will continue through the rest of the week, but will include a service-oriented focus.

Donating scarves: Byrnes said the students will create scarves tomorrow to donate to 11 shelters and other organizations that distribute clothing to needy people in the York area. Bynes said students at St. Joseph come from all over the county, and the scarves will be distributed to communities across York, too.

John A. Pavoncello — jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.comKatie Bullen, 7, holds on to her pants as she runs back to the starting line during the St. Joseph
John A. Pavoncello — Katie Bullen, 7, holds on to her pants as she runs back to the starting line during the St. Joseph School , celebration of Catholic Schools Week with an "Olympics" style competition. Visit for a slideshow of activities at St. Joseph and go to for a video.

The school is also hosting a food drive this week, but Cartwright said the scarf project gives students a more interactive way to serve their community.

"We wanted them to realize that they're actually doing something to help someone with their own hands," Cartwright said.

In addition to the service projects and other appreciation days for staff and students, the school is holding a Mass at 8:30 Friday morning that will honor "community helpers" such as the Springettsbury Township police, fire and public works officials.

Byrnes said the week is an opportunity to "show the school to the world and to celebrate ourselves." But Bynes said the themes of the week are common throughout the entire year, and not just for a few specific days.

"That's what we live all the time," she said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at