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Catholic school heroes have been here all along

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Catholic school educators have a long history of being brave, strong, and committed to doing what is right. I knew their response to the challenges of today would be no different.

Michael
Reardon

Growing up, Saturday mornings involved finishing my paper route as early as possible and parking myself in front of the television for a few hours of uninterrupted cartoons. These mornings were magical. There was no DVR to record what you missed and you had to time your bathroom and snack breaks so as to not miss any of the action.

It was then I was first introduced to superheroes. The heroes of the day were of the DC Comic variety -- Superman, Wonderman, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and even the Wonder Twins. Although I have to admit, I never quite understood the Wonder Twins. In recent years, with the rise of the Avengers, Marvel became the dominant force in the world of superheroes. These new superheroes are a more realistic reflection of our world. They are a diverse group of folks, with different backgrounds and experiences who unite for a common good, even when they don't always personally get along.

Superheroes are idealized versions of who we want to be -- brave, strong, and committed to doing what is right in the face of adversity and even danger. These attributes are what make the characters heroes. Heroic acts happen each and every day and if there is one silver lining to this pandemic and current civil unrest in our country, it's that we are seeing heroes emerge -- heroes that have been here all along, but have gone unnoticed.

Heroism is the first responder who puts herself in harm's way to protect a stranger. It is the social worker who shows up at 3 a.m. to console the child whose parent was killed in a car accident. It is the priest who anoints the dying person, sharing a final bond with them as they pass from this life. In our Catholic schools, it is the teachers, principals, pastors and Catholic Schools Office who put children and families first.

A few months back, I wrote with confidence that this could be the finest hour for Catholic education. This confidence came from knowing the heroic acts that have been occurring for decades in Catholic schools. I have personally witnessed teachers quietly making sure a family has food and clothing, principals arranging for housing for homeless families and these schools always being there for their students and families in times of crisis and personal challenge. Catholic school educators have a long history of being brave, strong, and committed to doing what is right. I knew their response to the challenges of today would be no different.

As public school districts debated how to proceed, Catholic school leaders focused on keeping students and faculty safe while providing the best education possible. There was certainly discussion about how best to do this, but the needs of students and families was always the primary question to answer. Included in this question was the extremely important priority of health and safety. These questions were not considered separate, and this helped move Catholic schools into a position of leadership in school reopening here in Massachusetts and across the country.

In the last few weeks, much has been written about how Catholic schools have responded to this crisis; for anyone who knows Catholic education, this child-first response is no surprise. Catholic schools succeed because of dedicated teachers, administrators, and pastors who heroically put children first for their entire careers. We are just getting a very public glimpse into their work.

Not all of us can work directly with students and families like teachers do each day, but we can make an impact. The Catholic Schools Foundation responded to an unprecedented time of need for families by providing almost $1.5 million in COVID-19 response aid. These dollars allowed hundreds of students facing economic stress the opportunity to continue in their Catholic school in this fall. This provides stability and a quality education during these extremely uncertain times.

This is truly becoming the finest hour for Catholic education and we can all join in this heroic work through prayer, recommending families explore your local Catholic school and through financial support. There is a lot of good happening in Catholic education and there has been no more important time to get involved. The time is now and the need is great.

To learn more, check out our website at csfboston.org or feel free to reach out directly to me at mreardon@csfboston.org.

- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.



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