THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: THE GREAT ADVENTURE OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION
On March 29, the Vatican released a new instruction on Catholic education. The document encourages everyone involved in Catholic schools to take responsibility to ensure that a strong Catholic identity is present in each school. The instruction also affirms that Catholic schools are places where academic learning and religious formation go hand-in-hand. They occur at the same time. We believe that knowledge should be attained at the same time that values are acquired. The atmosphere of a Catholic school allows for the pursuit of the true, the beautiful and the good to be found in every subject and every activity. This can happen when we allow Jesus to be the main teacher at our schools.
As we celebrate the recent graduates of our local Catholic schools, I would like to begin to offer a vision for our schools. Most of you know that I am a graduate of a Catholic high school. My parents sacrificed greatly so that all ten of their children would enjoy a Catholic education. I know that we were often unable to pay tuition on time. I know my parents had to set aside some comforts and desires so that Catholic education could be a priority and a reality for us. I am grateful for their sacrifice. I want to honor the sacrifice which is offered by so many who keep our Catholic schools vibrant.
I ask our families to engage in prayerful discernment when making the decision of where to send their children to school. I want to encourage parents to pray for guidance from God as to whether they are being called to make a commitment to Catholic education for their children. Instead of making a decision based on finances or your child’s preference I ask you to take this to the Lord. Ask Jesus to show you his desire for the education of your children and then to follow his direction.
I believe a primary goal of our schools ought to be a place of fostering encounters with Christ. This goal should be aimed at everyone involved in the school: faculty, students, parents and volunteers. Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (God is Love) says, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” I want our schools to be places where this encounter with the Lord drives everything else we do. This means that our schools will look for moments of this encounter in such places as regular experience of the Mass, adoration, rosary, and witness to our students of one’s personal relationship with Christ from faculty, clergy, religious and guests.
I also hope that our schools are places where our educators have allowed themselves to be amazed by Christ. In my experience, when I came to know Jesus personally, I could not help but be amazed by all that he has done and all that he is currently doing. I would hope that our educators are able to bear witness to this amazement. Our schools should be places where each of us is ready to give witness and testimony to the place of Christ in our lives. We should be experts in telling others of the beauty and joy that comes from letting Christ amaze you.
Another primary goal is that we aim to create disciples of all who are involved in our schools. This means we focus on discipleship formation for our students, faculty, volunteers and parents. Once we meet Christ and allow ourselves to be animated by Christ, then we naturally want to follow him. Discipleship formation must be a key.
The Vatican’s instruction also states that Catholic identity should be evident and should be our agenda: “Everyone has the obligation to recognize, respect, and bear witness to the Catholic identity of the school, officially set out in the educational project,” it continued. “This applies to the teaching staff, the non-teaching personnel, and the pupils and their families.” Rapid changes in society simply reveal the importance of forming disciples who can walk amidst this world of changing things with our hearts and minds set on the things of heaven — the things that will never change.
I believe our schools offer excellent academic discipline. We also offer much more than this. We should not have to compare ourselves to other schools. Instead, we will focus on who we are and who we are going to be. We offer a distinctive quality Catholic education experience. Catholic education has been an incredible gift in my life. The friendships formed, the mentoring from faculty and coaches and the quality education have shaped me. Most of all, the faith-filled family atmosphere helped form my relationship with Jesus and my desire to serve Him with my life.
Catholic education is part of the mission of the Church. Not only does it provide an alternative choice for families, but more importantly, we will offer an intentional Catholic education experience for our children. We promise to assist families in the great adventure of forming young disciples of Jesus Christ. Come and help us. Be part of this great adventure!