Pastor’s Message January 27th, 2019

   In his visit to America a few short years ago, one of the aims set forth by Pope Francis was to “to look to the past with gratitude.” When we consider the history of the Church in our country, we’ve seen how the Lord has blessed us in a special way, providing for our needs, particularly through the great work of the many religious who have been a part of shaping our identity. In a particular way, we recall with gratitude the profound impact that religious have had on the history of Catholic education in our country and our diocese. CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK that we now observe, gives us a chance to focus on that legacy and the continued efforts to develop morally upright citizens and vibrant Christians through the means of Catholic education.  
In the past, we’ve remarked how numerous Catholic schools abounded and made great learning available at a reasonable cost through the sacrificial efforts of countless religious priests, brothers and sisters who had served the parish schools well. The remaining ones continue to be a source of great blessing to the life of the Church. Although the numbers of religious serving in schools are not what they once were, we must acknowledge that we would not be where we are without their many years of faithful service, and for that, we give thanks to God for the foundation they helped to build, a foundation from which we all benefit in more ways than we could ever fully appreciate. Today, that same legacy continues through the efforts of equally dedicated lay men and women who also make great sacrifices in order to keep our schools open.  
One of the many figures who contributed to this foundation of Catholic education in our country is St. Katharine Drexel. She was born into one of the wealthiest families in the country. She and her sisters were raised with a solid Catholic formation, which included many opportunities for serving the poor and underprivileged with the wealth that had been bestowed upon their family.  
Pope Francis, during his visit to Philadelphia, reflected on the life and example of St. Katharine who had been born in that city. He recounted an incident that changed the direction of her life forever. While on a trip to Europe, she had the opportunity to be in Rome and was granted an audience with Pope Leo XIII. She pleaded with the pope to send more priests to serve the needs of the American Indians. Pope Francis recounted the response of Pope Leo in the following way: “The Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: ‘What about you? What are you going to do’?” Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church. Katharine went home and decided to dedicate her life to the service of the underprivileged as a religious sister. Though she inherited a large sum of money following the death of her father, people were astonished at her decision to become a religious sister. One newspaper even printed the headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million,” though not quite accurate.  
An important part of the work to which Katharine dedicated herself was education. She wanted to ensure that those who were unable to receive a Catholic education, either due to a lack of resources or unjust discrimination, would have the opportunity to do so. All of this happened because she was challenged to focus not just on what others could do to make a difference, but what she could do in order to respond to the needs of her time.
In reflecting on this challenge by Pope Leo XIII to St. Katherine, Pope Francis called attention to the significance that this invitation was given to “a young person, a young woman with high ideals.” He then said the following: “How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! I ask you: Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part, to find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord?”
Unfortunately, the message of our Catholic faith and the guidance on ways in which we live it out in our daily lives is not the only message to which we are exposed. In the culture in which we live, we’re challenged with other questions which are often at odds with our Catholic faith. Instead of asking, “What am I going to do?” our culture says, “What am I going to get from it?” We get too wrapped up in ourselves, and we miss the chance to act like Christ to others. 
Our young people have high ideals placed in their hearts. This can be observed simply by asking children what they want to do when they grow up. It’s not uncommon to hear answers such as being a doctor, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, or a military officer. What is common among these professions? They all have to do with service to other people. Later on, others may choose similar professions, just because they promise a lot of money, or something personally exciting. Our Catholic faith constantly places before us those ideals of being of service to others. In our diocese and in our parish, we are always emphasizing God’s call to live stewardship and discipleship as a way of life. We are all stewards of God’s creation, entrusted to use the gifts He has given to us for the benefit of others. God also calls us to be His disciples, i.e., people who intentionally decide to follow Jesus.  
This is where we see the great value of our Catholic schools, because they are a special place where young people are challenged to live up to those high ideals that are so common in youthful hearts. It is here that they are given a space in which to learn not just what we believe, but how to put it into practice by being of service to others. That’s why we’re proud of our growing school.
Our Catholic schools are places where we should be able to live in the way that Christ calls us to live. It is here, especially in our daily interactions with one another, where we are challenged with that question: “What are you going to do?” Will we choose to act as Christians, or will we just choose to act as the culture pushes us, by looking the other way, focusing just on what concerns us, leaving the care of others to someone else?