Mission Week, or at least what eventually evolved into the Week, one of the Academy’s favorite and most enduring traditions, began in the first decade at Frontenac. School mission efforts were turned specifically toward supporting the missions of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, both financially and spiritually. The forerunner of today’s Mission Week is Japan Day or Hearts for Japan, sponsored by the Catholic Student Mission Crusade (CSMC) beginning in 1958 to benefit the new CSJ school in Tsu, Japan – a day of “a movie, games, and goodies,” according to the March issue of The Sajoac. Each homeroom created its own project, and during the course of the day, students traveled from one room to another, spending their money for the benefit of the missions.
By 1960, added to the day of homeroom-based projects was a class rep for each grade, from whom an Empress of Japan was selected and crowned at the end of the day. $2,039 was raised this year with the CSMC still the principal sponsor of events. By 1962, the day was called Mission Day and the CSMC replaced by the Mission Club. This year, monies raised went to the three new missions that the sisters were opening in Peru.
At some point in the sixties, the event moved from January to November, and in 1963, for the first time, a Penny Queen was crowned. Homerooms organized everything from ice cream to beauty parlors, where a student could get her hair cut and colored, for a price. Activities expanded the next year to include a showing of Tammy Tell Me True
in the gym, raffles, a faculty-student basketball game, and box lunches for sale. The evening Carnival was added in 1966, climaxing with the crowning of the Penny Queen, the elected representative of the class who had raised the most money per capita.
In 1967, the Day became a Week, with kickoff on Thursday morning that usually included a sister who was or had been a missionary as the featured speaker. Students sold baked goods and homemade crafts throughout the school, among other means of raising money. The following Thursday, Mission Day, by the early 1970s, began with an all-school liturgy, followed by a faculty-student basketball or volleyball game and the Faculty Show, a kind of variety show that has grown exponentially over the years and today includes a mix of musical, comic, dance, and mixed media numbers, playing to an enthusiastic audience.
During the afternoon, students and faculty set up carnival booths in the gym, for which they’d been collecting prizes for weeks, as well as cooked and prepped for the spaghetti dinner hosted by the senior class in the cafeteria. Whole families and Sisters of St. Joseph from throughout the community enjoyed dinner, then moved on to the gym, packed elbow to elbow, to shop at the sisters’ craft booth or junior class Christmas booth, play games of skill, march to the cake walk music, or, in later years, sing karaoke. The climax of the week was the announcement of the Penny Queen to a screaming crowd, the excitement building up to the moment, and while the seniors won most years and expected to, every so often, another class upset the pattern. Friday was a much-deserved free day.
Mission Night never raised a lot of money, but it was not intended to. It was about community building, with parents, grandparents, young children, faculty spouses and children coming together to join in the wonderful spirit and fun. While all Penny Queen-generated monies went to support the CSJ missions in Peru, and in the twenty-first century the sisters’ mission in Uganda, as well, Mission Night carnival and dinner monies, several thousand, were reserved for home missions, requests for aid from local groups or sometimes graduates engaged in service work.
Over the years, class projects and activities became more elaborate and organized with themed house parties, skating and bowling events, even a Walk in Des Peres Park. Individuals, in addition to selling baked goods and small crafts, knitted scarves and hats and made jewelry. From one year to the next, the creativity was remarkable; the generosity, inspiring and heartwarming. Beginning in the 1980s, Mission Week clothing became a favorite purchase and a keepsake from one year to the next.