WHY DO WE HAVE CATHOLIC SCHOOLS?
It’s school time again. It’s got me to thinking, “Why do we spend considerable amounts of money and a heck of lot of energy into operating a catholic school?” It’s a good question. The simple answer is that operating a school is the best way we know of to help our parents teach the ways of faith to their children. That’s a pretty important task. And we have something pretty important to share with our children. What we share is nothing less than the way Jesus invites us to walk.
Jesus came so that we might have life, that we might know the fullness of joy. He came to teach us how to live in this world and, in doing so, to know that His presence is all around us and in each of us. He came to teach us that each of us is a unique reflection of His presence. Our job is to let His life flow through us and give life to others. He teaches us how to be present to each moment of our life—the good, the exciting, the frightening, the boring—every moment of our life. When we are present to these moments it can shape and mold us to be His life for the world. As St. Paul tells us in the Letter to the Ephesians “we give thanks to God whose power, now at work in our lives, can do far more than we an ask or even imagine. God desires only goodness for us and when we trust that, our life is filled with peace.
It takes courage to live in this way. It requires a willingness to be present even to the difficult and painful moments of our lives, the moments that we would rather not experience, the moments even of our failures and so see it all as the things God uses to teach us to grow and be life for others.
But, what does all that have to do with operating a school. After all, school is about teaching math and science, English and history. It’s about music and speech and drama and all manner of sporting activities. Yes we do all these things and I think we do them pretty
well. They are all important and they have their place.
But our children need more than academics, or sports, or fine arts. They need to be grounded in something far more fundamental. They need to be grounded in the way of life Jesus teaches us. Our children will be facing a world of increased technology and globalization. They will live in a world in which, not only will they change jobs often, but even change careers. To do that they will need to be grounded in values that last so they can live intentional lives with purpose and conviction. Theirs will be a world in which God is present and they will need to know how to be God’s presence in it.
Some people like to think that teaching our children the ways of faith is really about given them a lot of information and doctrines about being Catholic. But I think it’s more a matter of giving people the chance to “catch the faith” by seeing it modeled by others.
Here in our school we have children from the age of three to fourteen. And they will be with us for sometimes as much as ten hours a day. That’ a lot of time together. What we do in operating our school and doing all the things we normally associate with school, is create an atmosphere where our young children can learn how to live in relationship to success and failure, happiness and pain, excitement and boredom. In the process they learn how to be Christ in the world.
We have a great faculty and staff, people of faith who care about what they are doing and, more importantly, who care for the children of our parish. We are not perfect. We have our good days and our bad days. Sometimes we’ve really got it together and sometimes we get scared and confused and even frightened. But we have the desire to be good models of faith. As Thomas Merton said in a prayer he wrote: “we believe that the desire to do God’s will does in fact please God and we hope we have that desire in all that we do”.
You are a part of this effort as well. The financial contributions you give make it possible for great things to happen in our school. Even more, the example of faith you give to your children, grandchildren and to your prayer partners underscores everything we do in our school. We are in this together.
What we do as a school does not mean that we are better than public schools. There are many good public schools. And there are many wonderful teachers, some of whom are in our parish, who do heroic work in some difficult and challenging situations. We lift them up and give thanks for the good they do. But operating our own school gives us the freedom to allow our faith lives to permeate everything we do. And that’s worth all the time, money and energy we spend.