November 18, 2005

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Legacy for Our Mission Campaign will keep
Catholic education strong

A couple of weeks ago at its annual Legacy Dinner, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis presented its annual Benefactor’s Award to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The president and officers of Scecina had calculated that over the last 13 years, more than $12 million had been received from our parishes, the previous Legacy of Hope and Making a Difference campaigns, as well as an advance from the current Legacy for Our Mission campaign.

I accepted the award in the name of all the generous people of the archdiocese in central and southern Indiana. I also recognized the corporate and foundation communities for partnering with us in support of Catholic education. Needless to say, Scecina Memorial High School has not been the only beneficiary of support from many generous folks.

I have said many times that the “archdiocese” is not the collection of offices and agencies at 1400 N. Meridian St. in downtown Indianapolis. All of you, the people in our 150 parishes from Terre Haute to Richmond, from 96th Street in Marion County to Tell City to Lawrenceburg to Jeffersonville and New Albany on the Ohio River—we are the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

It is encouraging to know that we are coming to see more and more that—while the Church lives at the parish level—the Church is more than each parish. We are coming to understand that there are some things we just can’t accomplish on our own. We are coming to understand more and more that we need each other, and that we are called by the Lord to help each other.

When I arrived in Indianapolis in September 1992, I found on my desk a stack of studies of various Church ministries. I think there might have been as many as 11. Those studies had been commissioned by my predecessor, the beloved Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara.

One of the thickest volumes was a study on the future of Catholic education. Its projections were pretty grim. The more we discussed that study and the status and future of our schools, the more we were compelled to affirm that Catholic education, especially for the poor and the marginalized, is an essential part of our mission as Church. It was clear what our direction had to be. We are committed to Catholic education. Thirteen years later, we remain committed to Catholic education.

Last July, the bishops of the United States released a statement titled “Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium.” In this statement, we renewed the commitment made in a statement of 1990. At that time, we bishops unequivocally committed ourselves and the whole Catholic community to the following goals:

1. Catholic schools will continue to provide a Gospel-based education of the highest quality.

2. Catholic schools will be available, accessible and affordable.

3. The bishops will launch initiatives in both the private and public sectors to secure financial assistance for parents, the primary educators of their children, so that they can better exercise their right to choose the best schools for their children.

4. Catholic schools will be staffed by highly qualified administrators and teachers who would receive just wages and benefits, as we expressed in our pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All.”

The world continues to change, and our mission of Catholic education in our schools continues to be challenged. It is hard work to stand by our commitment to make our schools accessible and affordable for our children, especially for the poor and the marginalized. Yet they are included in the mission of Jesus in a special way. I constantly make the case that Catholic education in its holistic academic, spiritual and moral approach provides the most effective key for breaking the cycle of poverty in our midst.

I can testify to the value of Catholic education in my own personal experience. I do not believe that I would be an archbishop, a priest or Benedictine if I had not been given the gift of a fine Catholic education and religious formation early on in my life. The building of character and moral fiber as well as a sound mind and body and soul is a priceless gift that keeps on giving.

It is not surprising that one of the major features of the Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign is the mission of Catholic education. We intend that all our schools grow and thrive. We intend for them to be the best academically, spiritually, morally and athletically. There are challenges in this third millennium, for sure. But we intend to meet those challenges.

Please help us with the Legacy for Our Mission. It is for our children and youth and for the future. †


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