Catholic Schools Week 2011
"Catholic Schools: A+ for America" is this years theme for Catholic Schools Week. The theme is intended to draw attention to the overwhelming evidence of Catholic schools positive contributions to society over the past century. This years press release from the National Catholic Education Association states that, The theme celebrates the fact that Catholic schools are an added value ("A plus") for the nation. Because of their traditionally high academic standards and high graduation rates, all supported by strong moral values, Catholic schools and their graduates make a positive contribution to American society.
While high academic standards and high graduation rates are surely something to be proud of, they are not the foremost reason that the Church invests so heavily in this most important apostolate. Although the press release above points out that this education is supported by strong moral values this is really just an outcome of something greater. No, the Church has far greater expectations for the enormous investment that it makes in her schools; an expectation that Christ be at the center of everything. The Church knows that there is beauty in wisdom and in the pursuit of truth; that without the proper formation of ones heart and conscience all the knowledge in the world is lost.
Our schools positive contribution to society has more to do with the pursuit of truth than with graduation rates. There was a time in our nations history when the bible was part of the public schools curriculum; a time when it was not shameful to admit that the Ten Commandments are the basis of law and order for all western civilization. However, today our society is obsessed with political correctness. We are obsessed with polls and opinions and what the majority thinks should be so. In the public arena we are taught tolerance for everything; that we decide for ourselves what is and what is not. Unfortunately if everyone is right, then no one is right. It all goes back to the garden when the serpent explained to Eve: You will be like gods deciding for yourself what is good and what is bad.
There is more to education than simply attaining knowledge. It will always be about what is done with that knowledge! King Solomon got it right when he petitioned God for an understanding heart. Moral relativism has been around a long time as well, going back to when Pontius Pilate scoffed at Christ, What is truth? Our Lord had just stated that he had come into the world to testify to the truth and that everyone who belongs to the truth listens to His voice." Two thousand years later modern society is as hostile toward Christianity as ever. Society advocates tolerance for indignity, and proclaims that truth is relative and cannot possibly be determined. Our Catholic schools stand in stark contrast to this world view and one could argue that if ever there was a moment in history that they were most needed, it is now.
In the Vatican publication The Holy Sees Teaching On Catholic Schools, Archbishop Michael Miller wrote:
Catholic schools do far more than convey information to passive students. They aspire to teach wisdom, habituating their students "to desire learning so much that he or she will delight in becoming a self-learner." Intrinsically related to the search for wisdom is another idea frequently repeated in Vatican teaching: the confidence expressed that the human, however limited its powers, has the capacity to come to the knowledge of truth. This conviction about the nature of truth is too important to be confused about in Catholic schooling. Unlike skeptics and relativists, Catholic teachers share a specific conviction about truth: that they can pursue, and, to a limited but real extent, attain and communicate it to others. Catholic schools take up the daunting task of freeing boys and girls from the insidious consequences of what Benedict XVI recently called the "dictatorship of relativism" a dictatorship which cripples all genuine education. Catholic educators are to have in themselves and develop in others a passion for truth which defeats moral and cultural relativism. They are to educate "in the truth."
This years NCEA press release states that Catholic schools and their graduates make a positive contribution to American society. Ultimately it is the Churchs hope that the positive contribution to society would be to transform it; that the Church has in its schools a powerful voice and an effective tool for proclaiming the Gospel and testifying to the truth.
Our diocese has been blessed with many holy men and women who have devoted their lives in the service of Our Lord and who daily stand before our children embracing the challenge put forth by Pope John Paul II to restore to our culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth, can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors.
Currently I have three children (Allison Grace 11, Madelyn Rose 10 and Charles Benjamin 6) benefitting from a Catholic education here in the Diocese, with one son (Zachary Thomas 4) waiting patiently at home. It has only been in the last few years that I have begun to truly appreciate all of the sacrifices (time, money, and transportation) that my parents made in order to send me to a Catholic School.
Thank you to all our schools benefactors for your support and investment in our society and in the future Church. Thank you for the loving example that so many of you witness at home and in our Parish/School communities every day. I know that I will someday stand in judgment before our Lord and that I will be asked to account for the souls that were entrusted to my care; both of my own children and of those throughout the Diocese of Gaylord. Catholic Education and all that it teaches and stands for will be one of the things that I will lay before our Lords feet.
As we kick off Catholic Schools Week 2011, I would like to say thank you for all of the many things that each of you do to help realize the mission of our schools. It is truly a privilege and an honor to serve this diocese. May God continue to bless our efforts.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Diocese of Gaylord