Being intentional about Catholic identity key to our schools’ success

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | January 21, 2016

It was my first morning in Minnesota. I gathered with the priests of the Archdiocese to listen to our convocation speaker, Archbishop Michael Miller, discuss the hallmarks of a truly Catholic school. The presentation was superb, but what really impressed me was the attentiveness of my brother priests and the depth of their questions. It was clear to me from the start that Pope Francis had sent me to work in an archdiocese with a deep appreciation for Catholic schools.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I should not have been surprised, then, that Catholic schools were consistently identified in the listening sessions last fall as being among the greatest strengths of this archdiocese. The first bishop of St. Paul, Bishop Joseph Cretin, seems to have understood the connection between Catholic schools and the health of a diocese. I suspect that it was his passion for education (rather than his description of the gnats) that convinced the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to venture north to begin the first Catholic school here. Resting on that sound foundation, this local Church continues to reap the benefits of excellent Catholic schools.

As the universal Church comes to the end of the Year of Consecrated Life Feb. 2, it would be fitting to express our gratitude to all those religious women and men who embraced the challenges of Catholic education. As Pope Francis remarked last October at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York: “In the field of education alone, how many priests and religious in this country played a central role, assisting parents in handing on to their children the food that nourishes them for life!”

Nearly 165 years after the first Catholic school in
St. Paul opened, we have to ask how well we are continuing to assist parents in providing “food” that will sustain their children for life. With far fewer religious sisters, brothers and priests involved in the educational apostolate these days, the task of providing the “nourishment” of an authentically Catholic education falls more clearly on the rest of us. Without so many religious to guarantee the Catholic identity of our schools by their very presence, we need to be intentional about making sure that our schools and their educational philosophy reflect our faith and our Catholic identity.

In the seven months that I have been in Minnesota, I have been deeply impressed with the work of the Office for the Mission of Catholic Education in sustaining the schools of the archdiocese as places where the Church can give students a formative experience of the good news of Jesus Christ: helping to form the intellect through academic excellence, the will through Catholic morality, and the heart through prayer and service.

The annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 31-Feb. 6, provides us with an ideal opportunity not only to celebrate the great work that is taking place in our schools, but also to assess how we are molding our schools into “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” this year’s theme.

When visiting Queen of Angels Academy in Harlem, Pope Francis highlighted that a Catholic school has to be a family in which “we learn to help one another, to share our good qualities, to give the best of ourselves, to work as a team and to pursue our dreams.”

I am inspired that there are so many people here in the archdiocese who are dreaming with our Catholic school students and are willing to endure personal sacrifice to sustain those dreams, always with an eye to instilling in our youth what the pope described as “the hope of a better world with greater possibilities.” The Holy Father reminded us that “wherever there are dreams, wherever there is joy, Jesus is always present.”

As we enter Catholic Schools Week 2016, please join me in praying that the schools of this archdiocese might always be places of joy-filled encounter with Jesus.

Ser intencional sobre la identidad Católica es la clave para el éxito de nuestras escuelas

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Category: Only Jesus

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