Although I am away this week to give reports of our Diocese to Pope Francis and his administration in Rome, I wish to acknowledge the celebration of Catholic Schools Week. As we celebrate this important ministry of our church, I am cognizant of the great blessing Catholic schools have been for our families, our communities, for public and private life, and for our country. Catholic schools have educated leaders in public life and in private industry; they have strengthened marriages and formed spirit-filled and purposeful parents. Catholic schools have helped form communities of joy in learning, of respect for one another, of exploration of laws of the natural world, of respect and awe at the laws of God’s love and truth, and a sense of wonder at the God-created universe.
While there are many qualities that make up Catholic schools, I highlight three: Catholic identity, sustainability, and accessibility.
Catholic Identity: Catholic schools must be Catholic. What do I mean by this? It does not mean that all who participate in the mission and fruits of Catholic education must be Catholic. No. Catholic schools are open to all who acknowledge the value of a Catholic education. Catholic identity means we must be Catholic through and through. From the doctrine we teach, to the tradition in which we worship, to the outreach to humanity which we practice – we must be Catholic. As Catholics we do not proselytize: we do not force or pressure people to accept Catholicism. Rather, we live the faith in joy and offer a witness of hope to the world.
Sustainability: the ministry of Catholic schools is so important that it is critical that we assure the sustainability of these institutions for future students and generations. It is easy to get comfortable in the structure of an institution, such that, unfortunately, we don’t think about whether that structure is sustainable into the future. Administrators and boards need to think about whether a school’s structure needs to be tweaked, or if it needs a new direction or strategy, for sustainability into the future. I am most grateful to our many pastors, board members, and school administrators for the insightful and courageous work they have done and continue to do in this regard. Pertinent data is most important in assessing the needs of schools into the future.
Accessibility: part of the legacy and heritage of Catholic schools in the United States has been providing quality Catholic education to working class and immigrant families. In this way, Catholic schools have provided countless families and individuals a hand up in society, preparing them for leadership in families, community, and society. It is important that our schools remain accessible to families from all socio-economic backgrounds. Catholic schools have played an important role in preparing quality leadership from which our country has benefited for generations. I am grateful to our school leadership for providing scholarships to families in financial need. We intend to continue to provide and grow needed scholarships at the Diocesan level for deserving families.
A blessed Catholic Schools Week to all!
Bishop Oscar Cantú