January 23, 2009

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis: Celebrating 175 years of giving hope and faith to the world

Annette “Mickey” LentzBy Annette “Mickey” Lentz

This is an exciting time for us in the archdiocese. We are in the midst of celebrating our 175th anniversary!

We have so much to be thankful for over these past years, and certainly one of our greatest blessings has been our Catholic schools.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the power of these schools is to imagine the Church in central and southern Indiana without them.

What would our archdiocese look like without Catholic schools? Would it be as robust and vital? How would it produce generous leaders? How would it serve immigrants? How would it provide avenues of educational opportunity to the poor, especially in our cities? Who would Christ use to build up his kingdom?

As we recognize the importance of Catholic education in our society, we also celebrate one of its foundations as we mark Catholic Schools Week.

Service is a long-standing tradition in Catholic education, and a principle of the Church’s social teaching. Thus, this year’s theme for Catholic Schools Week, “Catholic Schools Celebrate Service,” is particularly fitting.

Why? Because when we commit to educating the whole child in an environment of faith and academic excellence then our schools instill a lifelong commitment to serving others.

It is our hope that, in providing a strong Catholic culture for our students, they will grow up to become good citizens, productive employees and exemplary leaders. As you read this Catholic Schools Week Supplement, you will find many examples of how our children turn that hope into a generous reality.

Our students collect food for the poor, host blood drives, build homes in other countries as well as here in the United States, and send relief to war-torn countries and to those affected by natural disasters. The list goes on as does their commitment.

Jesus asks us to serve others. Our schools still focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy—feed the hungry, clothe the naked, instruct the ignorant, forgive all injuries—to name a few. In living out these works of mercy, the student is called to give witness to the love of God among us.

Our schools have developed a proud heritage of service for our Church and the community it serves. Clearly, our Catholic schools have made a tremendous difference.

There are many great biblical scholars and important leaders who express the words of what it really means to serve. Two especially make my point about Catholic education and its focus on service.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”

We feel there are no exceptions to this statement. All students can serve God and, by doing so, serve others.

And Aristotle reminds us that “the greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”

What a powerful statement! It says to us that we must all be messengers of social justice. What is positive in the world must be shared with others. Injustices, on the other hand, must be overcome.

Catholic schools provide this daily experience. They demonstrate over and over again the Gospel message of love and forgiveness.

Our Catholic schools are gifts to the communities they serve. When the story of Catholic schools is written, historians will look back on our age, our archdiocese and marvel that against great odds, we not only persevered but strengthened our schools. We truly did celebrate our heritage of 175 years, and made a difference while serving others.

Let us remember the work of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta by doing simple things for others and by doing them with extraordinary love.

Let us together celebrate and pray for all Catholic schools and students that God’s rich blessings will be with them as once again they make their mark when called to “Celebrate Service” in 2009.

Let us together feel a sense of pride for the accomplishments of our Catholic schools for these past 175 years and for decades to come.

(Annette “Mickey” Lentz is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Education and Faith Formation.)

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