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Catholic Schools: ‘a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel’

We all want to be Vatican II Catholics. The Declaration on Christian Education (#8), from the council, states:

“No less than other schools does the Catholic school pursue cultural goals and the human formation of youth. The holistic formation of our young men and women, intellectually, humanly, physically and spiritually is the five-days-a-week aim of all our Catholic schools. This formation, of course is guided by Christ, but its aim is to share with them the cultural heritage which has been handed on to us.

But its proper function is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through Baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith.”

Whew! That is a long sentence. However, it does capture our aim.

If we begin with the end of the sentence, we see that all that is done in our schools is to be “illumined by faith.” Thus, the way that we look at our world, the way we look at our human life, and the way we look at ourselves (as well as others) is to be seen with the eyes of faith – eyes that are constantly looking at Jesus. As Christ was, so our Catholic schools seek to help our young women and men to be women for others, to be men for others.

At the root of all this is baptism. Here we see that Catholic schools really are meant to be an unfolding of our baptismal grace and our baptismal promise. Parents have an incredible responsibility to help their children unfold that baptism, which was the gift of the Blessed Trinity to us and to our children. As we know, this is never accomplished in a few days; it takes a lifetime. Parents, of course, are not responsible for their children when their progeny are in their 40s, but parental responsibility does take these kids through their school years. To prepare them to take a place in the work force, to prepare them to be good citizens, to prepare them for marriage or a special vocation, to prepare them for their place in the church is ultimately all an unfolding of their baptismal commitment so as to prepare them for heaven.

It is that “special atmosphere,” the Vatican II document states, which is to be created in our schools to assist parents in fulfilling their responsibilities. Our schools want to help parents help their kids get to heaven. In baptism, these youngsters did in fact become new creations in Christ. Our society today does not really believe this. It does not treat them as new creations in Christ; it does not help them realize the potential of that phrase. Our Catholic schools, in that sense, are very counter-cultural. They want to graduate students who will bring a new order to our culture, so that the salvation won for us in Jesus Christ can be shared by our society and world.

In this issue of FAITH Magazine, you are invited into the lives of some of those students and those schools. We, as an entire diocese, celebrate our Catholic schools; we, as an entire diocese, are responsible for our Catholic schools; we, as an entire diocese, benefit from our Catholic schools and the Christian leaders they will produce for our future. And all you parents who have sacrificed so much, and continue to do so, in order to enroll your daughters and sons in Catholic schools deserve our great thanks. It is unfortunate that so many more would like to make use of our schools, but are unable to do so at this time. It does call upon the whole diocese for a renewed generosity. We support our foreign missions, and well we should. We also need to support our home missions, as it were. But today, let us celebrate. Please enjoy this issue of FAITH.