January 28, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Many people deserve thanks for supporting Catholic schools

As we acknowledge the annual Catholic Schools Week, I want first to extend our gratitude to the many people who make our schools possible.

I am thinking of our pastors, who make funding our schools a reality, and that is not easy at all. Maintaining and fostering excellence in our parochial schools and our high schools is hard work. And this hard work and the accompanying worries of our pastors are not always acknowledged and appreciated.

I am also thinking of our school ­administrators, who worry about the financial burdens our schools represent. There never seems to be enough funds to underwrite faculty and student needs. The administrators of our schools are often taken for granted. So are our teachers.

I know from my personal background that teaching is not as easy as it looks. My mom was the first lay teacher in my home parish, Holy Family in Jasper. The time that she invested in lesson preparation was hard work—not to mention the added expectation of playground supervision and classroom upkeep. Mom didn’t ask for expressions of gratitude. Her work was rewarded by the appreciation of her students, whom she loved.

I know from my own background in teaching at Saint Meinrad that class preparation takes a lot of time. It is presumed that a teacher enters the classroom prepared to offer instruction. Correcting tests and homework is

time-consuming, and requires conscientious dedication of a teacher. This is a good time to say thank you!

Our Office of Catholic Education is an excellent operation and runs on a tight budget. I am proud of the excellence of education that our education staff sponsors and supports. The positive atmosphere and happy spirit one encounters among these folks is indicative of their dedication and commitment to their goals.

I want to say thank you to you parents who support our schools. I am keenly aware of the financial sacrifices that you make in order to allow your children to receive a solid Catholic education. I say thanks to you grandparents, who offer your support and foster the traditional values of a solid Catholic formation.

The formation offered in our Catholic schools doesn’t go very far if it does not find affirmation and support at home. Parents and teachers share a mutual ­responsibility in the religious, academic and social formation of our children.

I know that some of our pastors and teachers express a serious concern about the sometimes casual approach about the importance of sacramental practice and participation of some of our otherwise dedicated parents. Attendance at Mass on Sunday is not something that should be ignored by our families. Absence of parental guidance in this regard is not helpful to our children. It undermines the spiritual and religious formation offered in our school programs.

Our Catholic schools exist not only to offer excellent academic and co-curricular programs. We take religious formation seriously, and it is the fundamental justification for the investment that we make in our schools.

I am afraid secular values can infect family values, and this happens not only in regard to our school formation but also, and especially, in our commitment to catechetical and religious formation programs at our parishes.

We tend to think of religious formation as belonging to a separate set of values and practices compared to secular values—especially when it comes to sacramental practice.

It is painful for pastors and directors of our parish catechetical programs to see parents drop off their children for Sunday instruction and then drive away—instead of participate at weekend Mass. That parental absence sends a powerful message which runs counter to our faith values. It raises the question about whether some parents do not understand or appreciate the value of the Eucharist and other sacraments.

I realize that most parents are faithful in fostering a sense of dedication to the practices of our faith, and I want to support them and I do so gratefully. At the same time, I want to nudge those who perhaps have lost a sense of perspective about the importance of their Catholic faith and the potentially lifelong effect this has on their children.

The greatest gift that parents give their children, in addition to life itself, is the gift of faith and union with God that is transmitted at baptism. Nothing is more important in life than that initial introduction to the fullness of Christian life.

But that union with God needs to be nurtured and strengthened in the sacramental life, which Christ instituted to facilitate our way to salvation. The goal of every human life is final entrance into the House of the Father—into God’s Kingdom. Jesus won that way to heaven for us. Ours is the challenge to accept the gift. †

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