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Forming the Future: St. Agnes Elementary School, Arlington's 'Peace and Love Initiative'

By Donis Tracy Pilot Correspondent
Posted: 10/21/2016

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Students from St. Agnes, Arlington pose with pinwheels set up in front of the school to mark International Peace Day as part of the school's Peace and Love Initiative heeding Pope Francis' call to promote peace. Pilot photo/courtesy St. Agnes Elementary School

ARLINGTON -- Throughout the month of September, anyone walking in front of St. Agnes Elementary School was greeted with a striking sight: more than 200 beautifully decorated pinwheels spinning on the front lawn of the school, symbolizing the school's desire for peace.

At the start of the school year, each of the 270 students was given a pinwheel and asked to decorate it with their family as a way to mark International Peace Day, which was Sept. 21.

"It was such a sight," said Patricia Crane, director of development and alumni affairs at St. Agnes School. "When we took them down there were many people from the wider community that told us they missed seeing them."

The pinwheel project marks one way the school is heeding Pope Francis' call to promote peace.

"We very much admire Pope Francis and the way he stresses peace, love and mercy," said school principal Robert Penta. "And so, together with the St. Agnes School Family Association (SASFA), we set out to develop a new approach in our school."

As part of their everyday curriculum, the school has begun incorporating the "Peace and Love Initiative" that will focus on building bonds of love and unity within the school, as well as throughout the community and the entire world.

"The culture of our school will combine spirituality and service in their everyday lives," explained Lisa Hackley, a mother of two schoolchildren and one of the creators of the initiative.

"The feeling of the school has always been one of peace and love, but now we are focusing more strongly on promoting peace," she said.

Hackley, together with Sue Porcaro, mother of three St. Agnes schoolchildren, worked with the administration to develop the curriculum.

Each month, the school will have a specific goal, Porcaro explained, such as September's Pinwheel Project. The October project centered on the creation of a "School Family Tree" -- where students were given a heart to decorate as a family and return to the school. Once laminated, the hearts will be affixed to a painting of a tree and will be displayed in the school's cafeteria.

In addition, students will be recognized for performing "Acts of Peace and Love" during the school day.

"These different ideas are providing opportunities for us to stand strong -- strong in our school, strong in our faith, strong in our community," Porcaro said.

"Sometimes we all can get too busy to remember who we are, and what is important to us," she continued. "By participating in the Peace and Love Initiative, we hope that all the children, and their families, can be brought closer together."

"We have a beautiful community here," added Hackley. "We know each other; everyone wants to help each other. All the kids feel loved."