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Teaching through beauty

Art at McCarthy High School chapel, Southwest Ranches

SOUTHWEST RANCHES | Catholic education is more than words; it’s also pictures, symbols and examples. So when leaders at Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School pondered how to reinforce spiritual lessons, they chose a time-tested tool: beautiful windows.

At the school’s chapel, in the center of the 45-acre campus, nearly two dozen stained-glass windows stand as daily reminders of faith and heritage. The windows were made possible with a fund drive by the late Father Brendan Dalton, a former supervising principal.

“At first, it just looked like a charter school,” said Chris Covone, director of campus since 2014. “We asked, ‘How do we tell them we’re Catholic?’ We decided to do it through the history of saints. The Church has a rich history of education.”

Madonna of the Streets is based on a painting of a real young woman in 19th century Italy.

Photographer: Jim Davis | FC

Madonna of the Streets is based on a painting of a real young woman in 19th century Italy.

Many of the windows literally highlight great Church educators including saints Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Bosco and John Neumann. The windows also honor two major female educators, saints Frances Cabrini and Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The Church’s Marian heritage is emphasized as well, with several windows drawn from her apparitions in Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe and elsewhere. One window shows the so-called Madonna of the Streets, actually from a painting of a real young woman in 19th century Italy.

The largest number of windows focuses on the gospel: the baptism of Jesus, his speech in Nazareth, his talk with the woman at the well, his crucifixion and ascension, and his post-resurrection appearance on the road to Emmaus. Also remembered in a window is Pentecost, with tongues of fire alighting on Mary and the disciples.

One-quarter of the chapel walls is filled with a six-panel window, “I Am With You Always.” Students are shown in sports, singing, studying and other activities, with Jesus in their midst.

Finally, a window over the main entrance conveys the Great Commission – “Go Out and Teach All Nations” – delivered by Jesus to two students. The window was a gift from Richard Jean, the current principal, in memory of his mother.

Outside are two bits of antiquity: a sculpted stone pulpit and baptismal font. Those, too, were gifts from Msgr. Dalton, Covone said.

McCarthy High, named for the second archbishop of Miami, is the result of a feasibility study in 1993 by the University of Miami. Based on that study, Archbishop McCarthy began planning the school the next year. Groundbreaking followed in 1997.

Among its honors, McCarthy High has been named a School of Excellence by the Catholic High School Honor Roll. In 2013, the magazine Today’s Catholic Teacher chose McCarthy as one of 12 schools for its Innovations in Catholic Education Awards. In 2015, it was named an Apple Distinguished School for its use of technology in education.

But the school is more than teaching and technology: The faculty and staff guide the 1,700-plus students into a range of ministries. They include programs like music, liturgy, Respect Life and Best Buddies. Some students also serve the elderly and collect for shelters and soup kitchens.

“The role of a campus minister is to give opportunities for students to grow in faith, to learn what and why the Church teaches, and to put their faith in action,” Covone said.

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