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Faith, knowledge, service

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Feb. 1, 2017

Sunday, January 29th, marks the beginning of National Catholic Schools Week. Catholic education can’t always change the world, but it can form the mind, soul, and body so that our youth may enter the world with confidence in God and with the desire to do His will.

These days, confidence in the Lord sometimes seems in short supply.  Jesus Christ is a stranger to many of our sons and daughters.  It’s hard to have trust and confidence in Someone we don’t know. 

It’s difficult to muster any motivation to do God’s will when we are bombarded with media messages that insist we satisfy all our personal desires and enjoy instant gratification.

Last year, in one of my school visits, I asked a group of first-graders if there was anything new that they learned since the first day of school, anything that they didn’t know before.  I thought they might say that they learned how to spell new words or how to add.

To my surprise, one young student said that he learned about Jesus.  He said that he didn’t know anything about God until he started going to his Catholic school.  The young student told me that he never prayed before.  This little first-grader said that he doesn’t feel so lonely now that he can talk to Jesus.  What a precious moment it was for me as bishop. “It makes me feel lonely not knowing God” – the words of a six-year old child.

It is lonely not knowing God.  

Our hearts are always longing for something more, or rather, for Someone more.  In every human heart, there is an empty chamber waiting for a guest. Many people today, young and not-so-young, suffer loneliness.  
Some of us spend a lifetime trying to fill that empty space with self-destructive enticements such as drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity or a glut of material things. 

Our Catholic schools provide an environment where Jesus Christ is a welcome guest, no stranger. Once a relationship with Jesus is developed, we come to understand that doing God’s will serves us and our world immeasurably better than insisting on doing only what satisfies our personal wants.

Again, the Catholic school provides a setting where Christian values are taught and where God’s will is the focus of decisions we make. 

This year’s theme: Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service, reminds us that this environment is created and sustained in the context of community.

Pope Francis wrote that “Catholic schools play a vital role in assisting parents in their duty to raise their children and are encouraged in their mission to help pupils grow into mature adults who can view the world with the love of Jesus and who can understand life as a call to serve God…” (The Joy of Love, #279)

Christian communities are called to offer support to the educational mission of families.

To foster an integral education, we need to renew the covenant between the family and the Christian community.  To know God, to do His will is a family affair.  As we continue to strengthen faith formation in our families, we become active partners in the transformation of our society, instilling Christian hope, not fear for tomorrow. 

Catholic schools are places that generate hope for tomorrow because Jesus, our Hope is welcome within their walls.

We thank parents who choose to send their children to our Catholic schools, as well as pastors and parishioners who work diligently and sacrifice much to provide a Catholic school education in our parishes. 

We are grateful to our teachers, staff, and principals who provide an education that combines Catholic faith and teaching with academic excellence. 

Thank you for helping to give our children confidence in God and a desire to do God’s will.

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