THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: Illuminating Our Path
By Bishop James R. Golka
Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As Catholic Schools Week approaches, it is worth reflecting on these important words from paragraph 2223 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.” The same paragraph goes on to quote Pope St. John Paul II, “Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’”
Parents regularly report they find it difficult to exercise their responsibility because their children are too often immersed in an education culture that increasingly drives an embrace of the “material and instinctual” at the expense of “interior and spiritual.”
One of the most effective means parents have to battle the societal forces of materialism and the cultural worship of feelings is by enrolling their children in Catholic schools. To borrow from the article written for this issue of the Herald by our Superintendent Sheila Whalen, and to align with the passage from Proverbs quoted above, our Catholic schools are where today’s young scholars are trained to become tomorrow’s saints.
This is the fundamental and singular call for all people: to become saints. Although it is possible for children educated outside Catholic schools to answer that call to sainthood, a cursory examination of the education landscape today leads to this statement of the obvious: making saints is not a priority for any non-Catholic education institution.
Although Catholic school enrollment nationwide has increased slightly over the last two years, it is still below pre-pandemic levels; it is well below what it was when I was a Catholic school student in Nebraska; and it is far below what it was 50 years ago.
In recognition of these challenging trends, the Diocese of Colorado Springs chartered a Strategic Growth Plan for Catholic education titled “Illuminating Our Path.” Data has been gathered, goals are being set, and the plan will be finalized this summer.
There are multiple catalysts for this plan. We must accompany our parents as they take responsibility for the education of their children. We must give them the options and resources they need for their young scholars and future saints.
We must embrace a vision that calls for our schools to succeed both spiritually and academically. We must create joyful environments where the Parable of the Talents is a lived reality and not simply a scriptural story.
We must recognize the status quo is unsustainable. The ways of thinking that were in use when Catholic schools were full 50 years ago will not refill those schools in the 21st century.
There are many positive opportunities awaiting us as we seek to more effectively “Illuminate Our Path.” Most critically, we will seek to answer the spiritual hunger that our children and their parents have, a hunger for something more than the “material and instinctual.”
We will also seek to make Catholic education more accessible for a larger portion of the current demographic of our society and culture. For too long, cost to educate has been a barrier for our schools and parents as they seek to collaborate in the education of our children.
And we will seek to approach every difficulty as an opportunity; and to do so with a commitment to humility, charity and unity. Only in humility can we face our God. Only in charity can we help each other. Only in unity can we succeed in a world so often hostile to our Faith.
If your preschool through high school age child or grandchild is not already enrolled in one of our Catholic elementary schools or Catholic high schools, I invite you to consider doing so. More than considering it, I invite you to visit one or more of our superb Catholic schools, whether you have a school age child or not. These schools are great gifts to our Church, to our community, and to each of us. They are ours and we should know and love what they do.
Of course all of this ultimately relies on our prayers! If we truly desire today’s young scholars to become tomorrow’s saints, we must continuously and sincerely seek the blessings of our God upon us and our schools. Please pray with me in gratitude for the gift of Catholic education.