Our Catholic Schools—More Important Than Ever
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Phil 4:8
In case you missed it, last week was Catholic Schools Week across America. It is an annual opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the gift of Catholic School education in our diocese. Like many things of importance—parents, country, life, faith, health—we can take this gift for granted. I am a product of Catholic education, and did not really appreciate that gift until I left for college in the late 1970s and saw the advantages I had, especially in the ability to think clearly, and choose wisely (most of the time!); and when I did not, I knew it because my conscience was formed enough to let me know.
In the decades since, America has changed even more, becoming more secular, relativistic, materialistic, and alienated. Many commentators opine that we are now in uncharted territory, noting the frequent incidents of school shootings, the spike in opioid abuse, youth suicide, pornography use, and the general alienation and loneliness that so many experience, to name just a sample. These are the obvious symptoms of a culture in trouble. And, that is why our Catholic Schools are more important than ever.
Too often, we over-tout the academic excellence of our Catholic Schools, as if that is the only reason they exist. They are academically excellent, of course, but the best thing about our Catholic Schools is that they are places where we can work with parents to form a child’s heart and mind. In a beautiful section of Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Phil 4:8. Essentially, this is what a Catholic School is for. To form a child in purity, truth, justice, beauty, grace, and excellence in all things; and to give praise and thanks to the God who is Author of it all. To become fully human by coming to know Jesus Christ and see all things in his light.
In other words, to be aware of God, and to become grateful to God. To know we have been gifted and willed into existence by a good Father, and loved unto death, and saved by the Son, and gifted with blessings and graces by the Holy Spirit. To realize one’s true identity as sons and daughters of a Father in a Family, the Church, each with a special place and purpose. To know why I am here, who I am and where I am going. Once you know these things, you can face anything; you can face the cross, and do so with peace and even joy.
With the confidence and sense of purpose that a true Catholic education brings, one is freed to generously serve others who are vulnerable and in need, seeing them in the light of heaven in which every person is important, no matter their condition.
Catholic Schools exist to form the whole child to be wise and good…for life.
The world is a better place because of Catholic Schools. We need our Catholic Schools now more than ever.
+ Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
Catholic Key, February 9, 2018 issue