Catholic Schools Week will begin on Sunday, January 25 and conclude on Sunday, February 1. This is an important week for our Catholic schools as we celebrate their importance in the life of the Church and in our Diocese. The theme for Catholic Schools Week this year is Catholic Schools – Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service. Certainly these words describe well the life of the Catholic schools of our Diocese.
It is not uncommon to hear someone who has attended a school remember with gratitude their years of Catholic education. As a priest, I often encounter people who will immediately greet me because they remember the days of their youth when they were in a Catholic school. They will tell me of a certain sister, priest or teacher they remember and how their positive experience of Catholic schools has remained with them. It is quite obvious that Catholic schools have made a tremendous difference in the lives of these individuals.
Many parents make tremendous sacrifice to send their children to a Catholic school and they do so because they know of its importance in the life of their child. For a person of faith, the environment and education that are provided by Catholic school truly have no substitute. Our Catholic schools are communities of faith, knowledge and service in a manner that has no parallel. The Catholic school forms the mind and spirit and there can be no substitute for this.
In a Catholic school, a young person comes into daily contact with the faith environment that permeates the academic subjects taught and the social activities of school life. Religion is not just another subject in the curriculum and prayer is not only a routine to begin and end the school day. Faith and prayer are part of the very fabric of a Catholic school's atmosphere. Even such subjects as math and science take on a new dimension when they are presented in a faith atmosphere. Those who teach in a Catholic school are living conveyors of the message of faith. They impart to the young students not only knowledge but the gift of living example. The presence of a religious and a priest in a Catholic school truly touches the life of a young person in a unique manner which has been the experience of many of us. The celebration of the Eucharist, as well as the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in a Catholic school context are the foundation of what the Catholic school is all about.
Catholic schools truly enhance the life of the Church. While an individual's life is enhanced by a Catholic school education, so is that of all the members of the body which is the Church. The Church is made up of individuals but these individuals form a family as God intended the Church to be. What affects one individual affects all the members of the family. The Catholic school is itself enriched by those who make up its members and these members continue to enrich the Church through what is passed on to them in the Catholic school. There is a need for all of us, whether a parish is attached to the school or not, to support Catholic schools because all schools add to the quality of life in the Church and the Diocese. The future of the life of the Church will be affected by our young people who are more fully formed in the faith. There is no better support to a growing life of faith than that of the Catholic school.
Catholic schools, by being communities of faith, knowledge and service, make a difference in the life of society. This is a reality which is many times underestimated especially in the present atmosphere in which we live. Catholic schools are counter cultural, providing values and setting moral standards which go contrary to our society. Catholic schools provide moral principles to young people which are not only basic to our faith but basic to all people. Many prominent persons in our society have acknowledged the values imparted to him or her in a Catholic school setting.
In our Diocese, we continue to implement our Strategic Vision 2020 which was promulgated in September 2013. This strategic vision is certainly being effective in strengthening our schools as communities of faith, knowledge and service as it continues to implement the standards to be met in all of our schools by the year 2020. Strategic Vision, 2020, Charting a Course of Excellence is available on our diocesan website under the Office of Catholic Schools or directly at http://www.diocesepb.org/StrategicVision. It is an excellent document to review for Catholic Schools Week as we all commit ourselves to the importance of Catholic school education within the Diocese of Palm Beach.
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we are grateful for the outstanding Catholic schools within our Diocese and recommit ourselves to their importance as communities of faith, knowledge and service. Our Catholic schools touch the lives not only of the young people who attend them but of all of us. They truly make a vital difference in the life of the Church. I am deeply grateful to all in our Diocese who are so committed to the life of our Catholic schools and I encourage all to assist them in their efforts. I especially thank our Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Gary Gelo, as well as his assistant, Mrs. Marie Privuznak, who on a daily basis give themselves to making our Catholic schools the best they can be. We all have reason to be very proud of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach and to offer them our fullest support as they continue to be communities of faith, knowledge and service.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
January 23, 2015