Bishop's Column

We are all called to be teachers

All of us are called to be teachers. By our baptism, we are all called to witness to Jesus Christ, who, in the words of Saint Paul, lives in us. Therefore, we are called to teach, by the fruit of our discipleship, how powerful God’s love can be: how rich his mercy, how abundant his generosity. We’re called to become saints, and in so becoming, to teach the Christian life by our witness.

This month, in David City, Falls City, Nebraska City, and Wahoo; in Lincoln, and in Hastings, high school students walked across stages to graduate—to move forward in their lives, as young men and women formed as disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that a proper Catholic education forms students whose “whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ.” The Catholic schools of our diocese form the whole person, body, mind and spirit. They form students whose lives are imbued with the Spirit.

Next year, nine of our 12 new seminarians who are currently applying to the seminary are graduates of our Catholic high schools. Seven of the 12 men ordained deacons and priests this month for the Diocese of Lincoln are graduates of our diocesan high schools. Our Catholic schools produce holy priests, holy religious, holy families, and holy men and women—all of whom are transforming the world for Jesus Christ.

In a particular way, our schools are successful because of the generous and competent service of our classroom teachers and administrators. But our schools are successful when each one of us takes up the mission of teaching students how to live—to know the world, to know the faith, and to live the Christian life. Our schools are successful when schools and parents partner together, to build up the Body of Christ.

We need successful Catholic schools, because the world desperately needs faithful Catholics. My former boss and good friend, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, observed recently that “either we form society, or society will form us. The human heart needs to worship something. It’s our deepest hunger. Either we will form our children as disciples of Jesus Christ, the Son of the true God, or they will choose other gods to take His place — and the marketplace is full of them. This is why each one of us makes such a vital difference. The future depends on God. But God acts through us to touch the souls of our young people and the soul of the next century.”

God acts through us to build up the Body of Christ by building successful Catholic schools. And the future of our schools depends on each one of us. If we want our children, and our society, to reflect the Gospel, we need young people deeply formed in the virtues of our Catholic faith. And to ensure our success, each of us must take up the call to be teachers, to be witnesses.

As summer vacation begins, families will spend time outdoors, with relatives, neighbors and friends. And the subject of school plans for the fall will eventually come up. If we want to build a true Christian culture, we should encourage other families to enroll their children in our Catholic schools. We should tell the story of the success, the affordability and the beauty of our Catholic schools. We should partner with teachers and administrators to help in whatever we can. And we should support our schools—with our time, talent, and treasure—to ensure that every single child can be formed as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Robert Bolt’s play about the life of St. Thomas More, “A Man for All Seasons,” offers an important reflection on the vocation of teachers. In a powerful scene, Thomas More is mentoring the young, brilliant, Richard Rich, by offering him a job as a teacher. The young man is filled with ambition and high aspirations. “A teacher?” says Richard Rich, disappointed. When More tells him he could be a great teacher, Rich retorts, “and if I were, who would know it?” Thomas More responds profoundly, “Who would know it? Yourself, your friends, your students, God—not a bad public, that.”

We are all called to be teachers—in service to our neighbors, our parish, our children, our community—and in service to God. We are called to support the mission of our Catholic schools. We are called to witness to life in Jesus Christ. Like our graduates, we are called to lives “imbued with the spirit of Jesus Christ.” May we teach the faith, and live the faith, and may our Catholic schools transform families, and transform the world.

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Bishop Conley

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