Every year, Catholic Schools Week throws a spotlight on the mission and successes of Catholic education. This year, Catholic Schools Week is Jan. 29 through Feb. 4, and school communities throughout the Diocese of Nashville will use that time to celebrate dedicated teachers and staffers, accomplished students, and their dreams and hopes for their future.
All of the attention is deserved and needed when we consider the importance and scope of the mission of Catholic schools, a mission intimately connected to the mission of the entire Church.
The Second Vatican Council’s “Declaration on Christian Education” (“Gravissimum educationis”) declares the Church has a duty to educate “especially because she has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all men, of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and, in her unfailing solicitude, of assisting men to be able to come to the fullness of this life. The Church is bound as a mother to give to these children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ.”
When teachers can inspire students to see the hand of God in every subject they study, they are answering the Church’s call to each of us to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. In its work of education, the Church “aims not only to ensure the maturity proper to the human person, but above all to ensure that the baptized, gradually initiated into the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of faith,” according to “Gravissimum educationis.”
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Catholic Education: “Education remains critically important in the formation of the human person by teaching how to live well now so as to be able to live with God for all eternity. Our schools serve both the faith community and society by educating children, young people, and adults to contribute to the common good by becoming active and caring members of the communities, cities, and nation in which they live.”
Catholic schools are not in the business of preparing students to become doctors and lawyers, teachers and business leaders, police officers and artists. The schools are preparing students to become doctors who recognize the dignity inherent in every human life, lawyers who are zealous in the search for justice, teachers inspired by the teachings of Christ, business leaders who understand the economy should be in service of humankind, police officers who ensure order with an even hand, and artists who capture the beauty, truth, and goodness of God’s creation.
By forming students in the faith, Catholic schools are shaping our culture now and far into the future. As our students grow, mature, and take their place in their communities, they will bring to their families, their circle of friends, their neighborhoods, their workplaces all those values Christ taught us that will make our world more just, more peaceful, more merciful, more loving.
So we salute Catholic schools, for their successes are Christ’s successes, their mission is Christ’s mission.