Shrine blesses connector between grade school, early childhood center, adds St. Therese mural

Shrine Grade School students sing “This Little Light of Mine” before a blessing of a connector between the school and the community's new early childhood center on May 6. The new connector allows Shrine Catholic Schools to operate holistically as a pre-K through 12th grade Catholic education system, said Katie Fotiu, the school's principal. (Photos by Dan Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

Royal Oak schools celebrate connection of pre-kindergarten program to rest of basilica's Catholic education offerings

ROYAL OAK — Youngsters and the adults gathered together for a blessing of a hallway that serves as a physical connector and a spiritual bridge.

Standing in the connector hallway between Shrine Catholic Grade School and the school's newly built early childhood center on May 6, the schools' president and pastor Msgr. Robert McClory sprinkled holy water on the building and those in attendance, marking the connection of a school built in 1934 with an addition built in 2017. 

The new connector serves as much more than a functional hallway.

“It is so important for us to bring our family together, between our grade school in one building and the early childhood center in another,” Katie Fotiu, principal of Shrine Catholic Grade School told Detroit Catholic. “Having the two in separate buildings kind of hindered some of our collaboration between the two.”

The new connector is decorated with photos of children from the early childhood center and the elementary school, as well as art projects from the various grades. The new structure is meant to reinforce that Shrine is a pre-K through 12th grade Catholic education community.

Msgr. Robert McClory, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, talks with the students during a blessing of the new connector.

“You will often see the little ones going through the big school to talk with the older kids, many of our students will read to our (early childhood center) students and share what they are doing in their classes, getting them really excited about being a Shrine Knight,” Fotiu said.

The new connector features more storage and gathering spaces, office space for school counselors and a “parent-tot” room that is geared toward parents of 2-year-olds who are looking to include their children in the Shrine community at an early age.

“When we were starting the early childhood center last year, we were trying to fill a need for our families,” Fotiu said. “Our families wanted to have Catholic care for their kids that was all day for children as young as 3. We’ve seen an explosion in our enrollment, and we've been able to meet that need. ... You see all these little ones in church, and they are excited to see their friends from school in church. It’s just made our community grow more.”

Shrine’s junior kindergarten students opened the program by singing “This Little Light of Mine” and finished with “A Gift I Give to You.” Msgr. McClory commended the little ones for wearing their blue Shrine shirts with a quote on the back from the school’s patron, St. Therese of Lisieux: “Do small things with great love.”

Students gather around a new mural of St. Therese of Lisieux, the patroness of Shrine Catholic Schools, during a blessing of a new connector between the schools' early childhood center and grade school.

“It is such a great quotation from St. Therese,” said Msgr. McClory, pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica. “She really searched for what her vocation was throughout her entire life, and she realized that whatever God was calling her to do, if she did those little things with great love, she could change the world. It’s a beautiful image for our younger people, no matter what they’re called to do, to do so with great love.”

After a blessing of the connector, the crowd gathered around a new painted mural of St. Therese on a brick wall a staircase in Shrine Grade School. The wall was built as a firewall between the school and the connector, per safety code, and Shrine music teacher Michelle Hurley designed the mural to liven up the space.

“It was so fun to watch her paint the mural a little bit each day during the school day, and the students asking her what she was painting,” Fotiu said. “Here at Shrine, it is easy in incorporate St. Therese into everyday life because St. Therese is always saying, ‘Do small things with great love.' And that is a message our kids can very much understand. 

A student wears a T-shirt with St. Therese of Lisieux's famous saying, “Do small things with great love.”

“They don’t have to do something huge, like what you hear in the news or whatever. Here, we’re telling them, the smallest things can make a world of difference, and that is a goal they can all archives,” Fotiu continued. “So with the mural and us asking for her intercession, St. Therese is calling us to do small things with great love, continuing to live out that mission each and every day.”