Catholic schools are good for children, families, communities, the nation, and the Church. And today more than ever, they need our support. Why should we champion Catholic schools?
Catholic schools provide religious and moral formation in a world badly in need of Gospel values. Catholic schools excel in offering high quality education. Catholic schools are the responsibility of the entire Catholic community. Catholic schools are essential to the health of the Church and our democracy—they nurture the soul of our nation. Catholic schools exist to introduce students to Jesus Christ, and to assist them as they grow in their love of Him. Through catechesis, celebration of the Sacraments, and diligent study of the Word, students gain an appreciation for the Creator and creation.
In the face of increasing secularization, Catholic schools provide an atmosphere that privileges Gospel values and the role of parents as the primary educators of their children. Catholic schooling is grounded in the belief that parents are the primary educators of their children. It is the awesome responsibility of parents, assisted by the people of God, to strive to form saints. An authentically Catholic school thus assists parents in their charge to prepare children for life on earth and life in heaven. Nothing could be more important, and we all need to be reminded of this on a consistent basis. Catholic schools are indeed the most effective ways to assist parents in their duty to educate in faith.
Catholic schools have shown unparalleled success in educating children, promoting a lifelong commitment to faith and virtue, and encouraging civic engagement. While government leaders look frantically for programs and initiatives to improve education in America, Catholic schools maintain their track record of serving children and families admirably well.
In the early history of this Country, faced with a dominant culture that was hostile to our values, the Catholic Church in America built schools that would allow their children to grow in knowledge and faith – as good Catholics and good Americans. And with sweat, resolve, and prayer, these immigrants, our ancestors, built the largest system of private schools the world has ever seen. For over 300 years, the Catholic community in the United States – not just pastors or parents – has championed our schools.
Catholic schools save lives, create a more just world, breath life into parishes, and most importantly, draw children into deeper communion with Christ and the Church. It is precisely because of these benefits that the Catholic community in the United States must continue to invest in the future of our children in our Catholic schools.
The rise of evangelical Christian schools shows that other Christian communities have learned what many Catholics have forgotten or are willing to ignore – that there is no substitute for spending 35 hours each week in an educational environment permeated by faith and Gospel values- a Christian culture, a Catholic culture.
To those who wonder how we can afford to make the investment necessary to sustain, strengthen, and expand Catholic schools, I respond by turning the question on its head. How can we afford not to make this investment? Our future depends on it more than we may suspect. Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise of the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States? Will it be said of our generation that we lacked the resolve to preserve national treasures built upon the sacrifice of untold millions? Surely not.
With the Bishops, I believe that the stakes could not be higher for the Church and the country, and my reason for standing before you today is animated by three deep-seated convictions:
1. Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely, to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of God is cultivated.”
2. The vitality of the Church is inextricably linked to the health of its Catholic schools because they provide the most effective way to evangelize and form holy men and women who make God known, loved, and served.
3. Catholic schools will continue to play a vital role in American civic life, as they exemplify how to prepare citizens for full engagement in democracy and commitment to the common good.
There is no substitute for spending 35 hours each week in an educational environment permeated by faith and Gospel values. With that said, I ask all our Catholic families to make St. Mary of the Woods school and Trinity High School your first choice for the education of your children PreK-12.