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It's Catholic Schools Week!

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Jan. 29, 2014

Particularly during this past Year of Faith, we have been given a rich variety of opportunities to deepen our knowledge of the Catholic faith; to express it in creative fashion; to share it generously with others; and to celebrate it in profound, joy-filled worship to God.  Through the graces we received in our participation in the events that were offered, we now enter this new calendar year recommitted and energized to grow in faith and love, sharing our love for Jesus with our sisters and brothers. 

For generations, Catholic schools in our Diocese have been integral to this mission.  The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week: “Catholic Schools:  Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service”—encompasses several of the essential ingredients for faith to grow and flourish.  The mission of our Catholic schools is intimately tied to the work of the New Evangelization: fostering a personal, dynamic encounter with Jesus and giving expression to it in our relations with others.

Our schools need our renewed commitment and vital support so that they may recapture their pre-eminent role in the evangelization of our culture.   Our children need what we have to offer them in our Catholic schools: a sacred environment where faith is learned, lived and celebrated.  Our Catholic schools are places where our youngsters’ minds and hearts are formed and stretched so that they might attain the potential God has placed within each precious child.

It’s no secret, for a variety of reasons our Catholic Schools today have been experiencing decreases in enrollment.  In the listening sessions that were held throughout our Diocese last year, you told me of your great love for our schools and of your concern for their future. Clearly, the financial struggle of our Catholic schools and the burden it places on all the families committed to enrolling their children in these schools and on our parishioners is heavy.

The Church teaches that parents have the sacred right and awesome responsibility to be the primary educators of their children.  Our Catholic schools encourage and expect parental support and participation in the life of the Catholic school community. We thank parents who sacrifice and partner with Catholic schools in the education of their children. 

We are grateful to the principals, teachers and staff who provide the environment, witness and support that enable our schools to provide the excellence in academics and faith formation that no other educational institution can provide today.

It is important that parents are able to choose the best school for their children. We believe that every child has the universal right to an education in faith and the state has the obligation to enable such a right to be exercised.  

Through parental choice programs, families are given financial resources enabling them to attend the school of their choice, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, both secular and religious private schools and homeschooling.  There are currently more than thirty parental choice programs operating in seventeen states.  Unfortunately, New York State is not one of them.  I urge you strongly to contact your legislator and support the education investment tax credit bill presently in both houses of the New York State legislature.  Its passage would be a significant step in helping parents choose a Catholic School education for their children.

From the first moment a parent and student step inside a Catholic School, they have the impression of entering a new, distinctly different environment, one illumined by the light of faith.   Educating our students in the faith brightens the soul of our nation.  Formed in mind, heart and soul, Catholic school graduates can renew and inspire the Church from within by becoming zealous, Christ-led disciples. This Catholic Schools Week I congratulate and thank all who sacrifice and support our Catholic schools.   More than ever, we need strong Catholic schools here in the North Country.  They are sources of joy for us today and beacons of hope for tomorrow.

PHOTO supplied
Among the ways that Bishop Terry R. LaValley shows his support for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Ogdensburg is through annual visits to each of the schools. Here, he is pictured with children in the kindergarten class at St. Mary’s School in Ticonderoga during his Oct. 3 visit to the Essex County school. In his message for this year’s observance of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1,  the bishop writes, “I congratulate and thank all who sacrifice and support our Catholic schools.   More than ever, we need strong Catholic schools here in the North Country.  They are sources of joy for us today and beacons of hope for tomorrow.”

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