In the evolution of language, it seems the word community has become synonymous with school — at least in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Take a look at the student testimonials in this week’s Catholic Schools Week section and notice that three-quarters of the young writers use community to refer to their places of learning.
Everyone involved in educating them should feel a sense of pride.
The school is the building, the institution, the framework for the mission. Community is the mission filled with the Spirit, brought to life in all its participants.
For the young to count themselves among the participants — not just passive members — a school and all its parts have truly been animated by the Spirit.
Nearly two years into this awful pandemic, when education has suffered so many setbacks and challenges, that sense of community has never been more precious.
And it’s just what our children need.
Assumption High School senior Allison O’Donnell, who had just one normal high school year before the pandemic began, writes that her school’s community buoys her when she needs support.
“For the times I feel stressed, I know that I can fall back on my school community, much like how I can fall back on Jesus in my rough times,” she writes.
Beyond that, the Assumption community also helps her follow Jesus:
“Our community values the words of Jesus and we live them out on a daily basis. We are Jesus’ hands and feet on Earth and we are called to go out in the world and be His disciples, and Assumption has taught me to do just that.”
Kate Lancaster, an eighth-grader at St. Augustine School in Lebanon, Ky., sees her small school as a family in which members support one another and also lead one another to Jesus.
“This family is full of young children and teenagers thirsting for faith and knowledge who are striving to grow in the love of Jesus,” she writes. “Through this wanting for love, St. Augustine overflows with kindness and generosity. The teachers at St. Augustine focus on the importance of loving others and following God’s pathways. They always remind us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.”
Near the end she adds, “I love my school community.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz calls the archdiocese’s centers of education “schools of love.”
In these schools, he writes in his message for Catholic Schools Week, “our students learn and experience a reality bigger than themselves. They are called daily, through prayer, service and learning, to focus on the person of Jesus and the call of the Gospel to see others with eyes of Jesus. They are encouraged to channel God’s love for them into acts of service, compassion and love for others.”
The schools “provide a shining light for families, for the Church and for the broader community through their intentional, invitational and inspirational call to students to be persons for others in whatever way they live out their vocation,” he writes.
“Sadly,” he notes, “we can see the need for the fruits of communion — the common good and solidarity — in our fractured and often polarized world.”
It is sad that our world is fractured and polarized. But the Archdiocese of Louisville is full of men and women who have been educated in these school communities. They likely remember what Kate and Allison describe in their testimonials — the sense of community, of living for others, the mutual support you can find in a community.
That isn’t the realm of children; that’s the kingdom of God and it’s what we should be striving for. Let’s learn from our schools and share their gifts with our broader communities.