Each year, dozens of young professionals volunteer their time, expertise and contribute funds all in support of Catholic education.
Fewer and fewer people, especially younger generations, are regularly attending Mass and participating in other Church activities. I recall attending Mass as a child at St. Mary's Church in Billerica, one of three parishes in town at the time, and seeing pews filled from front to back. Entire families, old and young, carved out time every week to attend Mass on Sunday.
By the time I got to high school, fewer and fewer of my friends attended CCD classes or could be found at Mass on Sunday. Suddenly, going to Mass or attending other Church functions became a chore, something reserved just for holidays or other special occasions to make your parents happy. By college, I don't recall anyone my age, including myself, who was active in their parish anymore.
It wasn't until the winter of 2014 when this began to change. I had recently been hired to coach track and field at Malden Catholic High School when, around Christmas time, I noticed hundreds of toys stacked in the school hallways. These toys were donated by the students for distribution to children in need in the coming days. This was a turning point in my life as a Catholic. The Book of Exodus shares with us the story of Moses finding a burning bush on Mount Sinai through which God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The lines of toys in the halls of Malden Catholic were my calling. They were my burning bush.
At the Catholic Schools Foundation, we see an opposite trend when it comes to the participation of younger generations. Each year, dozens of young professionals volunteer their time, expertise and contribute funds all in support of Catholic education. For our young professionals, many of whom did not attend Catholic school themselves, it is witnessing the great work being done in Catholic schools that drives them to contribute. This year alone, our Young Leader Event Committee more than doubled in size from the previous year and raised crucial funds and awareness for the Annual Building Minds Scholarship Fund Celebration. These committed young professionals raised over $100,000 and, possibly more importantly, introduced the vital work of Catholic education to so many more people. Undoubtedly, this introduction to Catholic schools will serve as the burning bush for many of those in our Young Professionals network. They will see the transformation made possible through a high-quality Catholic education and the importance of providing access to those students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
This doesn't come as a surprise, though. A common emphasis at Catholic schools is service to their community. For example, Sisters of St. Joseph schools refer to this as serving the dear neighbor, while service follows the values of humility and compassion taught at local Xaverian Brothers-sponsored schools. It doesn't come as a shock that those who see first-hand the work of Catholic schools are driven to give back themselves.
This past week, a large group of young professionals gathered for CSF's Annual Schools Out Summer Celebration. This provided an opportunity to celebrate our young leaders, our Catholic schools, and the impact of CSF on the lives of students and families over the past year. In addition, many new young professionals representing several industries attended to learn about our work. A continuously growing Young Professionals network is crucial for the long-term success of the Catholic Schools Foundation and provides a great opportunity for those in the early stages of their career to make a real and impactful difference in the lives of thousands of in-need children. It may also be the connection that brings them back to the life of our Church.
Catholic Schools provide a transformative experience for all who walk through their doors, students, teachers, and community members alike. And maybe, in a time where it seems more and more people need to see their own version of the burning bush, our schools can be just that.
ZACH CREEDEN IS THE ANNUAL FUND AND PARTNERSHIP MANAGER FOR THE CATHOLIC SCHOOLS FOUNDATION.
- BISHOP REED IS REGIONAL BISHOP OF THE WEST REGION OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON, PASTOR OF GOOD SHEPHERD PARISH, WAYLAND AND PRESIDENT OF ICATHOLIC MEDIA.
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