Brothers and Sisters of the San Jose Diocese,
Each January we have the opportunity to celebrate the work and ministry of our Catholic schools. It is good that we do so through Catholic Schools Week. The history of Catholic schools in the United States is a unique one, in that a separate system of education was necessary in the face of an anti-Catholic sentiment and out-right bigotry for a good part of the history of this great nation. Since then, the Catholic Church developed a school system, which excelled in quality education, and which opened its doors to all, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This feat was possible because of the excellent work and tremendous sacrifices of religious women and men. We thank God for their great witness and for the strong foundation they provided for countless men and women in faith, wisdom and knowledge, civic duty, honor, and service to God and humanity. Thank you, sisters! Thank you, fathers and brothers!
While the numbers of sisters and brothers in our schools may have diminished dramatically, the goal and mission of Catholic education remains steadfast: to provide an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ through witness, worship, and learning. We do not proselytize, that is, we do not attempt to convert anyone who may not be Catholic. We evangelize through witness, dedication to learning, and worship. We simply attempt to show the beauty and truth of our faith and way of life.
One of the challenges of the last two or so decades is the accessibility of Catholic education. While the history of Catholic schools shows us a system which opened its doors to immigrants (Irish, German, and others) and to the poor, that legacy of Gospel witness is threatened by the rising costs of education, particularly in the Bay Area. We must keep our Catholic schools rooted in Gospel values: otherwise we simply become charter schools with Catholic trimmings! We are committed to working at the diocesan level, in collaboration with our school communities and parishes, to make our schools accessible to families in financial need.
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week this year, let us lift up the families, teachers, administrators, pastors and parishes that collaborate to make our schools true witnesses of Jesus’ love and truth.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Patrick McGrath Bishop Oscar Cantú