The short answer is, "A lot!" The longer answer rests in this column.
One of my goals when I first began my work with the archdiocese was to visit every school. Although I have not yet accomplished that task, I am well on my way! I am so very glad for the opportunity to visit our schools and to learn from so many dedicated Catholic school educators.
So, what have I learned from all those trips to our schools? The short answer is, "A lot!" The longer answers rests in this column.
I have learned that Catholic educators care deeply about their students. Everywhere I go, teachers ask me questions about education. They tell me about their students and of their fears that they are not doing enough or that they are not doing the right thing for them. I try to assure them, provide them with an idea or teaching tip, and in my heart pray a prayer of gratitude. I am so grateful that they care so much!
I have also learned that each place I visit has its own unique celebrations and ways of doing things, but they are all grounded in our faith. I have yet to visit a place where I did not immediately know that I was in a Catholic school. From the greeting at the door, to the smiles that receive me, our schools are welcoming centers, where the love of Christ is modeled for all to see. No matter how many times I visit our schools, it does not get old. I love the visits and I cannot wait to meet more of our students, parents, teachers and administrators!
Our schools are working to be more inclusive and the diversity I see in our schools is a reflection of our Church. I see children of many different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. I see children with learning needs, physical needs and emotional needs who might not have been in our buildings a decade ago. I see these children demonstrating the Golden Rule and I see them working and learning together, exactly as it should be. When I see such diversity it makes me smile. It also inspires me to pray that more students with different backgrounds and needs will be able to enroll in our schools.
Learning is occurring in our schools! Children are learning how to know, love and serve God. They know their math facts equations, their capitals, and who their governmental leaders are. They can explain photosynthesis and the role that stewardship plays in our environment. They also let me know about the connections between their faith and their academic learning. Students bring up these connections without prompting. They are receiving a Catholic education that helps them to know that God is the beginning and the end, and that Christ came to save us.
Finally, students in our schools know that they can rely on prayer and each other. Children in our schools believe that they are part of God's family. They know that they are part of a Church that will be there for them throughout their lives. They are learning to depend on their faith.
Our schools are not perfect, but they are striving to be the best they can be. They are working to provide a quality Catholic education that is focused on faith, the classics, and a solid foundation of reading, writing, and arithmetic. At the same time, our schools are accepting the challenges of a world that keeps moving forward. They are embracing their role as agents of evangelization. They are working to improve their curriculums, their facilities and their instructional practices. They are striving to become the best catechists possible. Catholic education demands a lot from our educators and they are working hard to meet the expectations of our communities.
The National Directory for Catechesis says, "Catholic Schools are vital to the Church's mission of evangelization and catechesis. They exist in order to educate the entire person: mind, body, and soul. They present the totality of the Catholic faith" (National Directory for Catechesis, USCCB, 2005, p. 262). Our schools are accepting their role of evangelization. They are passionately working to fulfill their purpose. The future is brighter because they exist.
I ask that you prayerfully consider a Catholic education for a child you know. Perhaps you have a son or daughter who would profit from learning in a place that supports the teaching of the faith and strong academics. Perhaps you have a grandchild who would benefit from one of our Catholic schools. Our schools exist to develop our students into saints and scholars. We invite you to join us.
KATHY MEARS IS THE SUPERINTENDENT OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS IN THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.