Catholic Schools Week 2018

On page 14 of this edition of The Anchor you can read about the goals the Catholic Schools Office for the Diocese of Fall River has established diocese-wide for our Catholic schools by the 2020-2021 academic year. “With your help, this can be done” is an expression we have heard often in our lives; sometimes so much so that we “tune it out.” However, this expression holds true for the goals of our Catholic schools.

The first goal of academic growth over all disciplines at first would seem to only implicate the teachers, students and parents, since the faculty has to teach the material, the parents need to make sure that their children are working hard, and the children have to put in their own personal effort. However, our financial generosity to the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education and to the individual schools will help with added expenses incurred in achieving this goal.

The second goal, of increasing enrollment by three percent, requires much more effort on our part. Our Catholic schools do all that they can to keep tuitions low, through the sacrifices of our faculty members (who could earn more at public institutions), through the volunteer work of parents and other people (who do the work which would be done by paid employees in other schools), and through the generosity of our donors. Over the last few years tuition assistance has increased greatly, as the diocese and the individual schools do what they can to help as many families as possible send their children to Catholic schools. Our increased donations will help to make this goal a reality, as well as the third goal of stabilizing school finances.

The fourth goal, of increasing church attendance in school parishes, might be the most challenging one, but it is also the one which all of us, regardless of our income, can take part in (and should take part in, since Christ has given all of us the mission at our Baptisms of going out to all the world and telling the Good News). 

Even if we do not have children of our own, we can do so much to help realize this fourth goal. As Father Goldrick wrote on page 10, Bishop da Cunha has repeatedly told us that we need to switch from being a Church of maintenance (just keeping everything “as is,” like the man in the parable of the talents who didn’t multiply what his master had given him — see Mt 25:14-30 and Lk 19:12-27) to being a Church of mission. The revitalization programs that our bishop wants us to implement should have the effect of helping to bring more of the children and families from our Catholic schools into our Sunday Masses. 

As individual Catholics, whether laity or clergy, we are called upon by the Lord to always recognize that we are people in need of continual conversion (since we are all sinners). None of us is the Blessed Mother; we all could improve more and more. This individual Spiritual improvement should help us be more credible in our inviting and welcoming other people to come to Mass. They should be able to see that our lived experience of Christ in the Eucharist has changed us for the better. They would then realize that their own hungers can only be satisfied by the Bread from Heaven and living in imitation of Him, Who gave Himself so that we might live.

Sometimes we will encounter people who have their objections to the Church, regarding some of our teachings or some negative experience they had with a Catholic. Pope Francis, speaking to the Congregation of Catholic Education last February 9, said, “St. Thomas [Aquinas] was and continues to be a master of this method, which consists of taking seriously the other, the interlocutor, seeking to understand fully his reasons, his objections, so as to be able to respond in an adequate rather than a superficial way. Only in this way can we truly advance together in the knowledge of truth.” 

In other words, in our schools and in our parishes, we should be ready to listen to these folks in an “in depth” way, so that we can show that we truly listened to what they were saying (or maybe didn’t say with words, but with their attitude or other cues) and show that Christ’s Church is the place where they can encounter God with these concerns and find some answers.

In the same talk, the Holy Father stressed that our Catholic schools need to be places which foster hope. “Man cannot live without hope, and education is a generator of hope. It is necessary to listen to the young: the ‘work of the ear.’ Listen to the young! Education has in common with hope the same substance of risk. Hope is not superficial optimism, nor is it the capacity to look at things benevolently, but rather is a way of knowing how to run risks in the right way.” Our young people face a world which either offers them no hope (“everything is in decline”) or false hopes (e.g., “this new gadget or form of social media will be the solution for everything in your life”). Our own Spiritual growth is needed so that we can be examples of hope to these children and parents, so that they will want to discover the “secret” source of our joy — Christ in the Eucharist.

If we are people of hope, rooted in the Gospel, we can achieve these goals. May each of us do our part, trusting in God’s help.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts