On Jan. 27, the Church throughout the United States will begin the annual week-long celebration of Catholic Schools Week. This is a time in which all of us can give thanks for the gift of Catholic schools, which have played such an important role in the lives of many of us.
It is a time to recognize the wonderful ministry of Catholic school teachers and administrators. They are lay and religious, and their devotion to forming young people to be good Catholic citizens is exemplary. There would be no Catholic schools were it not for the dedicated men and women who sacrifice much better paying jobs to serve the mission of the Church by bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our children and youth. They deserve all the accolades that they will receive during Catholic Schools Week.
At the same time, there would be no Catholic schools were it not for those parents who sacrifice so much to give the gift of a Catholic school education to their children. I am very encouraged and deeply edified when I meet school parents who take the time to tell me how much they appreciate the formation in the faith that their children are receiving in a Catholic school, as well as how much they value the quality of instruction and learning in all the academic subjects. These parents are the best promoters of Catholic schools because they know very well that the education that their children are receiving is second to none.
Any number of studies has proven that Catholic schools are the most effective means of passing on the Catholic faith to children and young people. More than ten years ago, the bishops of the United States issued an important statement, “Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium.” In that document, we bishops committed ourselves to the following set of goals:
*Catholic schools will continue to provide a Gospel-based education of the highest quality.
*Catholic schools will be available, accessible, and affordable.
*The bishops will launch initiatives in both the private and public sectors to secure financial assistance for parents, the primary educators of their children, so that they can better exercise their right to choose the best schools for their children.
*Catholic schools will be staffed by highly qualified administrators and teachers who would receive just wages and benefits, as we expressed in our pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All.”
These are lofty goals, indeed, but we have adopted all of them as our own in the Diocese of Colorado Springs. Ever since my arrival in Colorado Springs 17 years ago I, together with the Office of Total Catholic Education, have given a great deal of time and effort toward the building up of our Catholic schools and toward the expansion of our school system in those areas of the diocese that have experienced high growth. Since the inception of our annual appeal, Returning God’s Gifts, we have made funds available for financial aid for those families who could not otherwise afford Catholic schools. We have made great strides in securing the very best teachers and administrators for our schools. And we will continue to make every effort to ensure that our Catholic schools thrive.
Catholic schools exist in order to continue the mission of Christ in the world. Catholic schools exist to evangelize and to catechize. St. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have called upon all Catholics to transform society and culture in the light of the Gospel. Catholic schools remain an indispensable tool of this new evangelization.
I ask all our Catholics to pray for our Catholic school communities. I ask parents who do not now send their children to a Catholic school to give serious consideration to doing so. You don’t know what you’re missing!