Catholic elementary school educators were met with a chorus of gratitude from the superintendent and archbishop at the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual back-to-school Mass.
Dr. Mary Beth Bowling, superintendent of schools, told them before the Aug. 9 liturgy that she’s in awe of the educators and that she looks forward to the new school year with hope and anticipation.
“The core of our ministry is faith,” she said. “The challenge is to lead with faith.”
Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre told the teachers he hoped their summer was “relaxing and restful and enjoyable” and he thanked them for their commitment to Catholic education.
In his homily, Archbishop Fabre showed appreciation to teachers for advancing the mission of a faith-based education.
“I thank those of you who are Catholic,” he said. “I thank those of you who are not Catholic. … Those of you who are not Catholic, maybe not even Christian, I thank you very much for the effort that you put forth in achieving the mission of a faith-based education, the mission of Catholic schools.”
Children are like sponges, the archbishop said.
“They absorb anything and everything. And there’s a part of them, even though they might not always admit it, that does want to learn. … And an important aspect for young children, naturally, is faith.
“I do believe at elementary school, they are open to faith formation in a way that probably will not happen again in their lives.”
The “child-like wonder and faith” of elementary school children make for an excellent opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ and “how we believe Jesus Christ invites us to love one another,” he said.
The archbishop shared that his mother was a Catholic school teacher in his home state of Louisiana and he remembers how her former students would approach her and say, “ ‘Mrs. Fabre, you were my second grade teacher and I remember you, I remember all that you taught me. I want to thank you for the impact you had in my life.’ And that happened more than once.”
The real goal of Catholic education, Archbishop Fabre said, is to nurture a relationship with Jesus Christ. He spoke of the strength of faith that students take with them when they leave Catholic schools — be it strong, lukewarm or struggling — and said he hopes the young people are grateful for the Catholic education they received.
“I hope most will say, ‘It deepened my faith and formed me into the missionary disciple Jesus Christ calls me to be.’ ”
Thanking the teachers again for the part they play in forming students in faith, the archbishop said he appreciates that they are, in a way, “the manifestation of the love of Jesus Christ for each and every” student.
He concluded the homily with a message of hope that the spirit of God will “guide you in the decisions that you’ll have to make. May the spirit of God comfort you when it’s hard for whatever reason to do that.”
May it be “a year of joy, a year of trusting in the power of God and a year of deepening the faith of the children entrusted to our care for a large part of every day of their lives.”
The theme for the 2022-23 school year is “Open the Door to Jesus: Be Intentional in Walking with Him and Sharing the Gospel Message.”