When I started school as a first-grader, it was my first time away from my mother. I did not attend preschool or kindergarten. I attended the Catholic school in my neighborhood and when my mom took me to school opening day, I grabbed the pole outside the school door and held on for dear life. I was not going to let go because leaving my mom, my sister and brother for the first time was scary. All I knew was I was leaving my family and the anxiety and sadness I felt were very real.
Eventually, with the help of a teacher, I was peeled away from the pole and started my “first day” of school. In the days that followed, I quickly found I had another “family,” a faith family, who I could trust starting at a very young age. Supported by both religious and lay teachers, I learned to read, I learned my prayers and I FINALLY learned my multiplication facts (thanks to Sister William). I grew, not only in my knowledge of my Catholic faith, but I learned how to put my faith into action. I can distinctly remember the many teachers along the way who knew what I needed, when I needed it and how to continue to provide me with resources and support throughout my 1-12 Catholic education. I remember the way in which they modeled Christ.
It is that intentionality to serve students as Christ would that continues to underpin the work of our schools today. Especially during
COVID-19, Catholic Schools have been places of comfort, healing and support in the midst of challenging circumstances. “Whatever it takes” continues to be the mantra of our teachers, staff and school leaders. Our students benefit when they are invited to live a life that puts God and others first when they see it modeled daily. This declaration you see proudly displayed in almost every Catholic school throughout the country states the following:
“Let it be known to all who enter here
That Christ is the reason for the school,
The unseen but ever-present Teacher in its classes;
The model for its children;
The inspiration for its staff.”
During a recent homily on the feast of the Holy Family, I was struck by the message my pastor shared with the congregation. I believe it also pertains to Catholic Schools. He spoke about the trials and tribulations of the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. He said that we do not look up to them because they were the “perfect” family, but because they endured hardships from the very beginning and modeled for us that families are not perfect but with God’s help, we can find our way. Being a parent, student, teacher or administrator in a Catholic school is not “easy,” nor are we perfect. We struggle at times and despite our best efforts, need additional help and support to weather life. It takes a village, and our villages are the Catholic communities in which we worship and go to school.
Think back to the last time you met someone new at work, through a mutual friend, at a picnic or ball game. Inevitably the conversation gets around to school and the question is asked, “Where did you go to school?” How would you answer that question now? Those who are products of Catholic schools wouldn’t think twice. It would most likely include the Catholic high school or even grade school you attended. Why? It is the sense of belonging and community that has compelled many of you to choose Catholic school for your own children. To that, I say THANK YOU and more importantly, spread the word and let other families know they are invited to be part of this wonderful faith community.