Why build a new Catholic high school?

“Only take heed, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life; make them known to your children and to your children’s children.” Dt. 4:9

I have been told that in the past year there were only 20 new Catholic high schools opened in the United States. By contrast, many more have been closing. This year in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph we experienced both: after nearly six decades, Archbishop O’Hara High School closed its doors this past spring. And, on Friday last, I dedicated and blessed Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee’s Summit. It will open to seniors on August 11 and all 300 students on August 16.

Walking through Saint Michael is an experience. First, it is very beautiful. The location on 84 acres of rolling hills is picturesque. And the school building was designed for the place. It is a building that makes you feel good by being in it. The heart of the new high school is its chapel, which will not be completed for another month. As your bishop, I personally invite you to drop by to see and tour Saint Michael. It will be a significant institution in our diocese for the foreseeable future.

Having said this, the main point of my column is to share with you why Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School was built. Reflecting on this, my own answer is quite simple: for the love of God and the salvation of souls. It is what we are charged to do as the Church. We have a sacred duty to hand on the truth to the next generations. The Church cannot fail to assist families to raise their children to know who they are and what life’s true meaning and purpose is.

Saint Michael is an investment in our future as a Church family. We sacrifice for what is truly important to us, and our children are. I often say we invest in Catholic schools because we don’t simply want our children to be smart and successful, we want them to be wise and good. We want to do all we can to help them serve God and others in this life and get to heaven.

At a time of great moral and spiritual chaos in our nation, now is the time for us to go on offense. We cannot surrender to the strong tides of a secular culture that leaves the human heart empty and sad; a culture that has no answers to the most important questions. We must lead our young people to the Pearl of Great Price: to a deeper, living friendship with Jesus Christ that will carry them through the ups and downs of life and be the sure and certain light for the hidden future that awaits them. In a Catholic culture in which every student is known and loved, we educate our students to strive for excellence in academics, athletics, and other interests with the gifts that each has been given by God.

Of course, religious education is done first and foremost in the most essential Christian community of the family, but it is complemented and reinforced by other Christians in the community of the Church. That is what all of our Catholic grade and high schools are to be–partners with parents in raising children to be wise and good. That is what Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School will be to the families of Lee’s Summit, Independence, Blue Springs, Cass County, southern Jackson County and Kansas City, and the other towns and communities within driving distance.

Today there are many more challenges in preparing our children for the future given the rapid changes in our culture and technology. Life for many is more fragmented and shallow. People are looking for meaning, but are falsely told that everyone is radically free to create their own meaning; that it is purely subjective and up to each of us to create meaning for ourselves. Talk about pressure!

Saint Michael and all of our diocesan Catholic high schools will be places where our young people will learn that they don’t have to write their own story by themselves from scratch, but that they have been chosen to play a part in a much greater story that has already been written by God. Our Catholic high schools help hand on the great story that is their heritage, and equip our students to prepare for the part that God in His love has chosen for them to play as they grow and discover their path in life. This is fundamentally why our Catholic schools exist, and along with this we provide a superior academic preparation that is second to none.

This requires a different kind of education; one that the state cannot provide. Christian education to teach students to search passionately for the truth, to embrace the rigors of growing in virtue, to reflect on reality and the order whose author is God, and to order one’s own life and ambitions accordingly. Christian education that is not simply content to pass on information, but to form the mind and the heart to be wise and good, so as to live as Catholics with strength and freedom. Christian education that shows students how the life of the mind and soul flourishes when one prays. Christian education that leads to giving oneself to others in service.

Saint Michael’s motto is: Know Truth, Love God, Serve Others. This is what is beautiful and unique about Catholic education and what Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School will be about. I thank all of you for your support of this great and essential mission. If your children do not currently attend one of our diocesan Catholic schools, I urge you to prayerfully consider this possibility. We have made a major investment of resources and good people to give your children this opportunity, and we usually ate able to work with a family that might be stretched financially. We are blessed to add Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School to our other two diocesan Catholic high schools: St. Pius X in north Kansas City and Bishop LeBlond in St. Joseph. May our families flourish with the assistance of these partners in raising children that are wise and good–and happy, because they are in love with God and know the essential story that is their heritage!

+ Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.

Catholic Key, August 11, 2017 issue

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