New Orleans archbishop orders school calendars changed to keep Sundays free

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After months of nudging Catholics to reclaim Sunday as a day to attend Mass and spend time with family, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond is mandating that Catholic schools clear their calendars that day each week.

Aymond began asking schools last year to tweak practice schedules and reschedule social events so harried families could dedicate their Sundays to worshipping and staying close to home. This year, the request took on new urgency, and by the 2014-15 school year, it will be an official policy of the archdiocese.

“It’s rooted in the fact that people have a number of obligations and commitments. Our society is fast-paced,” Aymond said. “In living such a hectic life, people neglect sometimes, not purposefully, the very basics of faith and family.”

While many Catholics are embracing the idea of slowing things down on Sundays, the policy is not without substantial headaches, especially for large Catholic high schools that have to accommodate dozens of extracurricular activities and share limited facility space.

Aymond, who declared 2013 as a “Year of Family and Faith,” said the change applies to both archdiocesan-run schools and schools operated by independent religious orders. So far, most schools are on board, he said.

Cynthia Thomas, president of St. Mary’s Dominican High School, said the all-girls school has already changed the dates of many of its Sunday events, including its welcome Mass. There are a handful of outside events the school hasn’t been able to reschedule, but Thomas said she expects to be fully compliant by next year.

“The success of our school depends on family life,” she said. “This is another opportunity to strengthen that, and in the long run I see it only benefiting everyone involved.”

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