Catholic Schools Week begins January 29, 2017, and ends on February 4, 2017. This is a National Celebration of Catholic education. Many schools will be having a special Mass to begin the week and celebrating in their communities by recognizing the patron saint of the parish and school. In the Diocese of San Jose we gather at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph and celebrate Mass with our Bishop, Patrick J. McGrath. Representatives from each elementary school and high school open this week in song and prayer together. It is a joyful way to begin our week. Additionally, that evening we gather at Archbishop Mitty High School to thank the donors from each school who share their time, talent and treasure to make our schools communities of faith.
The theme of this year’s Mass is Peace and Justice. The students will identify one member of their group to participate in a solidarity march in the Cathedral to signify their commitment to the plight of the marginalized in our communities. At the local school site each school will identify the ways they will participate this year in our theme. The theme is important because throughout the school year principals and teachers share the experiences and activities that help their students internalize the importance of being united in one aspect of our Catholic teachings.
The Bishop asked me to create a Task Force to study the decline in school enrollment in the elementary schools. We have put together an outstanding group of principals, priest and teacher leaders, as well as members of our Diocesan leadership and SCU to investigate opportunities for our schools to reach out to the communities we serve with programs that will showcase our commitment to quality, rigorous and relevant education in our Diocesan schools. Some of the topics include Dual Language Immersion, Year Round Schools, Enrolling Hispanic families, Alignment of schools with population needs and Governance models. The report of findings will be presented to Bishop McGrath in February.
A huge thanks to all of you for your commitment to our Catholic schools. We are aware that much has changed in Catholic education and in the communities we serve. We should expect it since it is 2017! Change is hard, however, and is often misunderstood. Change provides us with a challenge to see the mission of our work in a new way. As a Catholic community let us commit to working together, as our students will be doing, to recognize the needs of our community and to provide what we can out of our own need, so they may know we are here and we are the ‘Face of God’ for them. That is one essential attribute of Catholic Schools that has not and will not change.