Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn's column from the upcoming print edition of The Catholic Key:
The Mission of Catholic Schools at the Service of the Church
This week, we acknowledge the gift of Catholic education under the banner of Catholic Schools Celebrate Service. Our community owes a debt of gratitude to parents, teachers, and all who serve and sacrifice for the ministry of Catholic schools.
The tradition of Catholic education began with Christ Himself when Jesus called together his disciples and the multitudes that followed him. In their need He fed them and taught them: food for body and food for soul. He came as the full and definitive revelation of the Father’s love. He taught the truth, and ultimately entrusted this work to the Church, promising the Apostles the help of the Holy Spirit. One of the most important components of the Church’s mission is the work of teaching the faith.
The Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, from the Second Vatican Council, affirms the priority of this call to parents, who are the first teachers of their children. (no. 3) The Church must assist parents in this responsibility. The Council says that Catholic Schools are of “outstanding importance,” (no. 5) and therefore have a significant role in the Church’s work of promoting an authentic human culture and forming young people.(no. 8)
I wish to repeat here what I have said at other times and places about our Catholic schools. We depend on these schools to carry forward the very work of the Church. While they are certainly not the only means to teach and form youth, they are without a doubt one of the primary means to do so. They are a vibrant part of the work of the whole Church, and they require the support of the broad Catholic community.
For more than a year we have been engaged in a Comprehensive Planning Study for our Catholic schools. A number of meetings are scheduled in the near future as we begin to discuss the recommendations that have been formulated through this careful gathering of data. We want to make sure that our schools are on a firm footing for generations to come. We want to make sure that they are faithful to the very message that Our Lord Himself revealed. They will be excellent in every aspect of their teaching and, perhaps most important, we will continue to examine and intensify the Catholic identity of our schools. The passionate determination to make our schools “unashamedly Catholic” is the unique ingredient that sets us apart, and without which we could never justify the commitment to maintain our own schools.
As a product of Catholic education, I am keenly aware of how Catholic schools helped to provide a foundation for my life. For many years I had the privilege of serving as a teacher and administrator in Catholic high schools. My life and ministry have been immeasurably blessed by the gift of Catholic schooling.
We honor those who serve and sacrifice for Catholic education. In partnership, parents and teachers are today’s channels for passing on the same timeless message of Jesus Christ. Your collaboration and prayerful support for the programs we are now beginning will help us fortify the tradition of Catholic education in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.