March 11March 11 Editorial: Faith, community and a call to serve others connect our Catholic schools (January 26, 2024)

January 26, 2024


Faith, community and a call to serve others connect our Catholic schools

Catholic Schools Week begins on Jan. 28, and continues through Feb. 3. Parishes and schools throughout central and southern Indiana will celebrate with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and other members of the Church and civic communities. These events call attention to the ways that Catholic schools serve the needs of students from diverse backgrounds and communities here in the archdiocese and throughout our nation.

These institutes of learning continue the teaching ministry of Jesus. They help adults, youths and children in our archdiocese come to a deeper understanding of God’s plan for human life and for all creation.

As powerful instruments of evangelization, Catholic schools help members of the Catholic community and others from many diverse faiths, cultures and economic backgrounds grow intellectually, personally and spiritually as members of the one family of God.

These schools are also vital to the social ministry of the Church—through the assistance they provide to students and families in need, but also in their commitment to teaching social justice and to providing students with opportunities to serve others.

Catholic schools contribute directly to the health and vitality of the Church. Along with parish religious education programs, youth ministry and other means of lifelong faith formation and education, they provide religious education classes, sacramental preparation, liturgical and prayer experiences, and opportunities for Christian witness and service. They help form the faith community, and they challenge us to look beyond our own concerns to the urgent needs of individuals, families and society at large.

Catholic schools have a long and rich history of serving the students, families, and communities in central and southern Indiana. Currently, 67 schools provide an academically rigorous and excellent education infused with Catholic values and teachings. Students excel on all metrics of academic achievement, from standardized test scores to college admissions and completion. They learn in an environment that is Christ-centered, faith-filled and in service to others. Graduates of Catholic schools are productive citizens and servant leaders in their communities, our nation and the world. All members of our school communities are taught, in words and in action, that they are loved, valued and respected as God’s unique creations.

What are some of the fundamental characteristics of a Catholic school? First, they exist to proclaim the Gospel. Everything in the school—its curriculum, its liturgies and retreats, its sports activities, and its service programs—should provide students (and staff and families) with opportunities to encounter the person of Jesus Christ, to become his disciples and to proclaim to the whole world our salvation in him. In fact, the most important element in a school’s Catholic identity is its commitment to make Christ present to everyone who attends the school or who comes into contact with it.

Second, a Catholic school teaches the Catholic faith (catechesis). The mystery of God, as revealed to us by the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the primary content of a Catholic education. All of the academic disciplines reveal in partial and preliminary ways the working of the Holy Spirit in our world from the beginning of time.

The more we learn about math and science, diverse languages and cultures, the ups and downs of world history and the history of our local communities, the more we discover that the teachings of our Church, as contained in Scripture and in our Catholic tradition, represent the truth, the way things really are.

Finally, to be truly Catholic, a school must teach its students and all members of the school community to reach out to others and accept responsibility for the well-being of all God’s creation (social justice). Catholic schools do not exist for their own sakes. They exist for the good of their students and the communities they serve. Social justice is a constitutive element of the Gospel. That means it must also be a constitutive element of the curriculum and the daily life of every Catholic school.

May our observance of Catholic Schools Week this year provide a witness to our commitment and support for the students, families, teachers and staff in all our schools. And may the witness of Catholic schools encourage us to encounter Jesus, to reverence all God’s creation, and to serve one another, especially those who are most in need.

—Daniel Conway

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