Fr. Stan invited me to be a guest author of the bulletin this week and it is perfect timing because Catholic Schools Week is right around the corner, Jan 29 – Feb 4.
Whenever I am given the chance to share my thoughts about Catholic education, I feel compelled to write about why Catholic education is important. At this time, I am more convinced that Catholic education is not only important but essential for our students and families. Not only do we focus on excellence in academics, as all our local schools do, but we also focus on spiritual excellence.
The Church’s vision of education has been articulated through a variety of magisterial documents over time. One such document, The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools, by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, faithfully summarizes the last fifty years of Magisterial documents on Catholic schools.
The following summaries illustrate the five marks that Archbishop Miller highlights, and are used with permission from ICLE: (c) Institute for Catholic Liberal Education 2023.
- Catholic Schools are inspired by a Supernatural Vision
The enduring foundation on which the Church builds her educational philosophy is the conviction that it is a process which forms the whole child, especially with his or her eyes fixed on the vision of God. The specific purpose of a Catholic education is the formation of boys and girls who will be good citizens of this world, enriching society with the leaven of the Gospel, but who will also be citizens of the world to come. Catholic schools have a straightforward goal: to foster the growth of good Catholic human beings who love God and neighbor and thus fulfill their destiny of becoming saints.
- Catholic Schools are founded on a Christian Anthropology
The Holy See’s documents insist that, to be worthy of its name, a Catholic school must be founded on Jesus Christ the Redeemer who, through his Incarnation, is united with each student. Christ is not an after-thought or an add-on to Catholic educational philosophy but the center and fulcrum of the entire enterprise, the light enlightening every pupil who comes into our schools (cf. Jn 1:9).
- Catholic Schools are animated by Communion and Community
A third important teaching on Catholic schools that has emerged in the Holy See’s documents in recent years is its emphasis on the community aspect of the Catholic school, a dimension rooted both in the social nature of the human person and the reality of the Church as “the home and the school of communion.” That the Catholic school is an educational community “is one of the most enriching developments for the contemporary school.”
- Catholic Schools are imbued with a Catholic Worldview
Catholicism should permeate not just the class period of catechism or religious education, or the school’s pastoral activities, but the entire curriculum and culture of the school. The Vatican documents speak of “an integral education, an education which responds to all the needs of the human person.”
4.1 Search for Wisdom and Truth
In an age of information overload, Catholic schools must be especially attentive to the delicate balance between human experience and understanding. In the words of T.S. Eliot, we do not want our students to say: “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and to their neighbors.
4.2 Faith, Culture and Life
From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis of culture and faith. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.
- Sustained by Gospel Witness
The careful hiring of men and women who enthusiastically endorse a Catholic ethos is the primary way to foster a school’s Catholicity. The reason for such concern about teachers is straightforward. Catholic education is strengthened by its “martyrs.”
As we approach Catholic Schools Week, I invite all of you to help us continue to build St. Joseph School into a cornerstone of truth, faith, and excellence for our community. I also would like to encourage and invite all families to visit us and see how a Catholic education can become a reality for you.