Catholic Schools Week 2015

This Sunday begins Catholic Schools Week, an annual observance which began back in 1974. According to the National Catholic Education Association, this week “is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2015 is January 25-31. The theme for the National Catholic Schools Week 2015 is ‘Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.’ Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members.”

Throughout this edition of The Anchor you can read news and advertisements inviting you to come to know and support the Catholic schools which exist throughout our diocese. We urge you to keep in prayer our students and staff, asking God to always help them in their special vocation of promoting an integral education of the youth, which shows the connection between faith and everyday life.

In Seoul, South Korea this past August 14, Pope Francis expressed to the bishops of that peninsula their duty to promote Catholic education. He said, “I would ask you to be concerned in a special way for the education of children, supporting the indispensable mission not only of the universities, important as they are, but also Catholic schools at every level, beginning with elementary schools, where young minds and hearts are shaped in love for the Lord and His Church, in the good, the true and the beautiful, and where children learn to be good Christians and upright citizens.”

The pope’s remarks remind us that God is the Source of all knowledge and that in a Catholic school all the various fields can be taught together so that children see these connections and that this education will help them in their religious and their civic lives.

Last February 13, speaking to the Congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican, the Holy Father spoke again about this relationship between all the disciplines and how the teachers lovingly live this out: “I would like to limit myself to recalling the features of an educator and his or her specific duty. To educate is an act of love, it is to give life. And love is demanding, it calls for the best resources, for a reawakening of the passion to begin this path patiently with young people. The educator in Catholic schools must be, first and foremost, competent and qualified but, at the same time, someone who is rich in humanity and capable of being with young people in a style of pedagogy that helps promote their human and Spiritual growth. Youth are in need of quality teaching along with values that are not only articulated but witnessed to. Consistency is an indispensable factor in the education of young people! Consistency! We cannot grow and we cannot educate without consistency: consistency and witness!”

During the same speech the pope pointed out a reality which is true in the Catholic schools of many dioceses, including ours — that many non-Catholic children attend them. Thus, another reason is given for the staff and the Catholic students to give a good witness to their faith throughout the school day (and beyond it). He said, “In fact, Catholic schools and universities are attended by many non-Christian students as well as non-believers. Catholic educational institutions offer everyone an education aimed at the integral development of the person that responds to the right of all people to have access to knowledge and understanding. But they are equally called to offer to all the Christian message — respecting fully the freedom of all and the proper methods of each specific scholastic environment — namely that Jesus Christ is the meaning of life, of the cosmos and of history.”

Our Catholic schools are proud to witness to Christ — not “proud” in the sense of that deadly sin, but proud that Christ has given them this special mission to witness to Christ throughout the day, from what goes on in the classrooms, to the chapel, to the lunchroom, and to the schoolyard. All of these locations are places for privileged encounters between Christ and others. “Jesus began to preach the Good News in the ‘Galilee of the Gentiles,’ a crossroads for people of different races, cultures and religions. In some ways this context is similar to today’s world. The profound changes that have led to the ever-spreading multicultural societies requires those who work in schools and universities to become involved in the educational programs of exchange and dialogue, with a bold and innovative fidelity able to bring together the Catholic identity to meet the different ‘souls’ existing in a multicultural society,” said Pope Francis last February.

Although the Church provides Catholic schools and parish Religious Education programs, Pope Francis has reminded us of the truth that education begins in the home and that the parents have the right and duty to be the teachers of their children (as the Baptismal Rite has us pray, “May they always be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith in what they say and do”). On Oct. 2, 2014 the pope exhorted the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe: “The family, which already fulfills its role with regard to its members, is a school of humanity, brotherhood, love, communion which forms mature and responsible citizens. Open cooperation between the clergy and families will favor the maturation of a Spirit of justice, of solidarity, of peace and the courage of one’s convictions. This will come about by supporting parents in their responsibility to educate their children, thus protecting their inalienable right to provide their children with the education they deem most suitable. Parents, in fact, remain the first and foremost educators of their children, thus they have the right to educate them according to their moral and religious convictions. In this way, you will be able to outline common and coordinated pastoral directives necessary to promote and effectively support Catholic schools.”

In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), at No. 65, the pope listed things that people, even non-believers, appreciate about the Catholic Church, and to that list he added, “And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing.” We thank God for the presence of this good thing in our diocese, for the efforts of our teachers, staff, parents and students to live out this important witness to Christ in the field of education.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts