February 19, 2010


We seek the face of God when we help poor children

From personal experience, I have deep convictions about the enormous value of Catholic education. Everyone experiences poverty of one kind or another, whether it be financial, physical, spiritual or moral poverty. The quality of academic education in our Catholic schools, and the environment of caring and discipline and no-nonsense moral values are worth a great deal of sacrifice because they give us a way out of poverty”
-Archbishop Daniel M.Buechlein, “Seeking the Face of the Lord,” 1993.

Since 1992, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein has written his weekly column, “Seeking the Face of the Lord,” to teach and inspire us, to reflect on and interpret the teachings of our Church, to share Good News and, occasionally, to ask for our prayers and assistance as he tries to carry out his responsibilities on behalf of the Church in central and southern Indiana.

The topics our archbishop has written about in more than 850 weekly columns to date are diverse, but what unites them all is his desire to walk with us, to lead and guide us as our pastor, as we seek the face of the Lord among all the challenges and distractions of our daily lives.

“Seek the Face of the Lord” is taken from Psalm 27 and from the Rule of St. Benedict. It is the archbishop’s episcopal motto as well as the title of his weekly column in The Criterion.

It is both a challenge and an invitation that the Church extends to each one of us as we journey through life.

Our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ is not to serve ourselves. It is to know, love and serve Christ—to seek and find him in the Eucharist, in the Word of God, in the sacraments and in the faces of others, especially the poor and the vulnerable.

Archbishop Buechlein never misses his weekly column. He is not deterred by illness or surgery, by the demands of his busy administrative, sacramental and pastoral schedule or by the occasional need to travel outside the archdiocese for meetings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. After prayer, which the archbishop rightly sees as his first priority, his teaching ministry is at the top of his list as the chief pastor of this local Church.

In his column in the Jan. 22 issue, Archbishop Buechlein wrote about the challenge of helping children in the center city of Indianapolis, and in other areas of the archdiocese, break the cycle of poverty through excellence in education and faith formation.

For more than 17 years, the archbishop, with the help of dedicated clergy, religious and lay leaders, and with the assistance of generous gifts of time, talent and money from individuals, corporations and foundations, has carried forward the mission of educating the children of poor families in spite of enormous obstacles.

Through his weekly column, but also through his consistent decisions and actionduring his tenure as Archbishop of Indianapolis, Archbishop Buechlein has taught us that education is a responsibility shared by the whole Church. It should not be a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. It should be a ministry of the whole Church that is open and accessible for all.

Now, Archbishop Buechlein is asking us to help support a new venture in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—charter schools.

Acknowledging that this is a difficult and controversial step to take because it means letting go of the schools’ Catholic identity, and handing over the operation and fiscal management of the schools to public control, the archbishop nevertheless affirms the decision to apply for a public school charter for St. Anthony Catholic School and St. Andrew & St. Rita Catholic Academy.

“I share the disappointment of those who deeply regret the sacrifice and compromising of Catholic identity,” the archbishop writes. “I ask for your understanding and especially your prayers as we pursue this difficult course of action. Always, the focus of our efforts is the desire to help poor children.”

How do we find the face of the Lord when we help poor children? In one of his earliest columns (see quote above), Archbishop Buechlein called our attention to “the quality of academic education in our Catholic schools, and the environment of caring and discipline and non-nonsense moral values” that help children and their families break the cycle of poverty. He told us that these “are worth a great deal of sacrifice,” and that we find the face of Jesus in the faces of poor children, the families, teachers and pastors.

No one pretends that public charter schools can provide all of the benefits of a Catholic school education. But if they can help us maintain our commitment to poor children by continuing to provide them with quality education in an environment of caring, discipline and no-nonsense morals, then surely charter schools are worth exploring.

Let’s give Archbishop Buechlein the prayerful support he has asked for. Let’s walk with him as he seeks the face of the Lord in the center city and in poor rural communities throughout central and southern Indiana.

Finally, let’s pray that the archbishop’s commitment to help poor children find a way out of poverty will continue to inspire our generous gifts of time, talent and treasure for many years to come!

—Daniel Conway

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