Pastor’s Message May 1st, 2016

It is one of my primary responsibilities as the shepherd of this parish to lead the people to Christ by educating them in the truths of our Catholic Faith and bring them into a more personal encounter with Him through the celebration of the Sacraments. Since it’s physically impossible for me to fulfill this role adequately by myself, I’m especially grateful for the religious sisters and deacons to assist me in this work. But, their number is by no means sufficient to meet the educational needs of all our people. So, I enlist the help of all kinds of teachers to join in this important work of leading others to Christ. Catholic education is a parish-wide responsibility.
During this Easter season, as we listen to readings from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear deacons being chosen to assist the Apostles to reach out to a growing Christian community. They received their mission from Jesus Himself, just before He ascended to Heaven. The Apostle Philip instructed the Ethiopian eunuch, leading him to an understanding of the Scriptures, faithful to what had been handed on to him from Christ Himself. This teaching ultimately led the eunuch to an encounter with Jesus through the Sacrament of Baptism.
I think it’s helpful for us to be reminded of this order of teaching as we reflect on our responsibility in the Catholic education of others as well as ourselves. All that we do in this important work can be understood as being directed to one goal: to lead all people – including and especially our youngest – to encounter Christ and His Church, thereby preparing them to be His faithful disciples here on earth and, one day, saints in Heaven. This is a goal that must be shared by every member of our Catholic community, not just those immediately responsible for teaching religion.
Every subject that we teach in our Catholic school can be a great opportunity to impart our Catholic beliefs and values. An example would be in the realm of science. There is a growing trend among young people who are claiming to be atheists. They say they can cite reasons from science that disprove the existence of God. However, many Catholic resources are available to help counter these claims, explaining how faith and science complement one another. We have a responsibility, an obligation and an opportunity to share this truth with our students. Another area is when we teach about government and the creation of laws. Besides the basic information one might find in any civics class in public schools, we can add the wisdom of the Church teachings on social doctrine and religious liberty. In this way, we prepare our young people to be good citizens by being good Catholics, for the Catholic Faith encourages us to be a leaven in society, sharing principles that guarantee authentic freedom.
It should go without saying that when it does come to religion classes, it is most imperative that our content is in alignment with the truths of our Catholic Faith. Staying within the bounds of what the Church officially teaches is not a restriction on academic freedom. Rather, it provides the resources for the truths that guarantee the authentic understanding of who Jesus is, who the Church is, and what they teach, so that our young people can know the freedom that comes from walking in the light of truth. To do otherwise is a great disservice to our young people and not in keeping with the task entrusted to us. Teaching what is contrary to the truths of our Catholic faith is dangerous, in that it leads our students to confusion about what is true; and it can result in their being led away from Christ and His Church.
If we remain clear in our goal and from whom that goal has been set, namely Jesus, then we will be much more willing to exercise our role as stewards of that which has been entrusted to us. Our love for our students will prompt us to want to give them what they most need, namely the beautiful gift of our Catholic faith as it has been given to us.
Yet, Catholic education goes beyond just teaching in the classroom. We want to lead our young people to a life of discipleship by helping them to apply the teachings of the Catholic faith to their daily lives. One way of inviting our young people to embrace a life of discipleship is to provide good models for them to see. We want courageous Principals, along with teachers who are bold witnesses of our Faith. Today, it can be a difficult task to confront teachers and other leaders when it becomes known that they are not modeling the type of behavior expected in such an environment. As tempting as it is to just let the issue slide, we must take seriously our responsibility to provide an environment that is conducive to lead our young people to a life centered in Christ.
When seen from this perspective, the role in Catholic education given to each of us helps us to understand better the obligations we have as members of our parish community. It is a privileged opportunity to help shape the next generation of disciples for our Church. Our Catholic education is an integral element that will contribute to the long-term success of our efforts in promoting a way of life based on stewardship and discipleship. I wish to encourage you to examine the important part that you play in this process, and I invite you to instill that sense of excitement in your family members and fellow parishioners as well. Pray thoughtfully, to ask Our Lord for the grace to be faithful to the work that has been entrusted to us, that we may lead our young people to a deeper understanding of the truth in every area of study, especially in the teachings of our Catholic Faith. This is the sure path that will lead them, like the eunuch, to encounter Jesus Christ Himself, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). From that encounter, they cannot help but commit themselves to be His disciples in this life so long as we all journey together toward our ultimate goal of becoming saints forever in the glory of Heaven.