From the Superintendent — Put ‘Catholic’ first

Dr. Mary Beth Bowling

“Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you; pray that I may have grace to Let you be my servant, too.” — The Servant Song

Our Catholic Schools Week Theme: “Faith. Academic Excellence. Service.” has a special meaning to all of us associated with Catholic schools as we celebrate the many blessings our communities of faith offer to our students. We are Catholic schools first; therefore, we must continue to pass on our faith to the young people entrusted to our care and partner with parents who are the first teachers of the faith.

Faith and Catholic Identity was the topic of our January principals’ meetings. As school leaders, they are keepers of the faith charged with ensuring that our schools remain identifiably Catholic in the “every day.” What does that look like in each school? How do we know when a school has a strong Catholic identity?

“The National Catholic Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Elementary and Secondary Schools” define well what should be present in a school community that is identifiably Catholic. Yet, even if we “check off” these benchmarks, what does the lived culture of the school really say about its Catholic Identity?

We recently conducted a survey of different stakeholder groups in our elementary schools called the “Defining Characteristics of a Catholic School” to solicit input about this very topic from teachers, students and parents. We have started to look at this data to determine where our growth opportunities lie.

While the results were overall positive, one of the survey items stood as an opportunity for growth:

“Our school instills in students the responsibility to promote Gospel values and social justice in the world.”

At a time when our world is experiencing great divide, unrest and conflict, how do our students, teachers and parents promote Gospel values and social justice in our schools and community?

When we lose our way, we have the message of the Gospel to guide us in how we treat one another and how we respond to those in need. Simply open the New Testament to find stories about Jesus that reveal how he responded when faced with adversity and conflict. For example, when confronted by the Pharisees who asked him what law was most important, Jesus looked at them and said, “The law boils down to this one. Love God with all your heart and mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the foundation of our faith, our academic programs and the service opportunities in which our students partake.

We began this school year with the theme “Be Intentional in Walking with Jesus and Sharing the Gospel Message.” That is the message and challenge we celebrate during Catholic Schools Week.

This Feb. 2 edition of The Record highlights some of the many ways our students are living out the Gospel message of serving others. You will also read the reflection of one of our teachers who highlights the values of Catholic education that she received as a student and continues to instill daily in her students.

We all have responsibility to ensure that the word “Catholic” is alive and well in our school communities. It is through faith, academic excellence and service that this is realized. The Catholic church and Catholic school community of the future is dependent on how seriously we take our responsibility.

Please partner with us as we put “Catholic” first in our school communities daily.

The Record
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