Catholic Schools Week

01-27-2019From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John J. Barbella

When I was first asked to become a pastor back in 1996, I was very hesitant to do so. I had been a priest for about 9 years and loved being a priest. But I was afraid that becoming a pastor – and taking on all the administrative and managerial tasks that are part of running a parish – would give me less time for more spiritual parts of the priesthood that I enjoyed so very much.

Bishop Edward Hughes, of blessed memory, gave me some very good advice. He told me that the best way to avoid that was to make sure I kept doing the things I loved about being a priest. I knew that he meant what he said, because even when he was our bishop, he used to teach 8th grade religion at the cathedral's parish school.

Since, like Bishop Hughes, I always loved to teach about the Faith, I decided that – no matter how much else I had to do as a pastor – I would always make time to teach in my parish school and CCD Program. As most of you know, I currently enjoy teaching both 8th and 4th grade religion in our parish school each week, as well as 5th grade CCD.

Today we begin Catholic Schools Week in our country. It is a time to think about the role our Catholic Schools play in teaching the faith and many other things. The following facts come from Notre Dame University, which does a lot of excellent research about and support work for parish schools like our own:

  • Catholic Schools in America educate about 2 million students – making them the largest non-public school system in the country. By educating that many children, Catholic Schools collectively save U.S. taxpayers about $20 billion – yes, billion – annually.
  • Catholic Schools do this with a low teacher to student religion, but on strong academics, too. For this reason, about 99% of Catholic School students finish and graduate high school, with nearly 90% going on to fouryear colleges. That they are schooled to be concerned and active about the world in which they live is demonstrated by the fact the several surveys show that graduates of Catholic Schools are much more likely than others to vote in elections when they reach adulthood!
  • Most importantly, Catholic School students not only learn about our Faith in religion classes, but spend each school day in an environment permeated by the Gospel. In addition to regular school Masses, students in our own parish school attend Adoration monthly – where they learn the beautiful art of silent prayer. They go to Confession monthly, pray the Stations of the Cross each Friday of Lent, and even attend Benediction throughout the Church year. Doing all this allows them to experience the culture of Catholicism – reinforcing and greatly deepening the Faith their parents first shared with them at home.

Another contribution that our schools make to our society is subtle, but no less important. The existence of our Catholic Schools gives people an alternative choice for their children's education. History has shown us, time and again, that having a variety of good educational options is a great guardian of democracy and freedom, since it prevents any one person or group from having a monopoly on the formation of the next generation.

You can find more information about Catholic Schools Week elsewhere in this bulletin, and on the parish and school website. I know I'm looking forward to the celebrations, and to enjoying this week with our students, their dedicated teachers, and the hardworking administrators and school support staff. To them we all owe a great debt of thanks.

Please say a Hail Mary for me today, and every day – and have a great week!
Fr. John