By Bishop James Conley
I celebrated the annual Diocesan Teacher’s Institute Mass Oct. 1, on the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. St. Thérèse embodies for us, in a very beautiful and compelling way, the “call to holiness” which was the general theme of the Teacher’s Institute this year.
Louis and Zélie Martin, the mother and father of St. Thérèse, were beatified in 2008 and canonized saints in 2015. They had nine children and lost four of them at a young age. A number of her sisters also entered religious life. St. Thérèse’s family was a “school of holiness.”
Zélie Martin once wrote in a letter: “When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. We lived only for them. They were all our happiness, and we never found any except in them. In short, nothing was too difficult, and the world was no longer a burden for us. For me, our children were a great compensation, so I wanted to have a lot of them in order to raise them for Heaven.”
St. Thérèse’s love of Jesus and formation in the virtues, particularly the virtue of humility, was nurtured within her family. The Church has always taught that parents are the first and primary teachers of their children.
But our Catholic schools can also be “schools of holiness,” assisting families and instilling those virtues in our children so that they meet Jesus every day in their teachers, in their classmates, and in their studies. I believe this is happening every day in our Catholic schools.
During this grave crisis in the Church which we are experiencing in our day, I know those in our schools have had to endure criticism and heightened scrutiny with regard to the safety and protection of our students.
I apologize, again, on behalf of the Church for the crimes and misdeeds of some priests and bishops, the violation of sacred trust and the various ways the Church has covered these up in the past. We continue to pray for the victims and their families of any kind of abuse by Church personnel, the grave harm this has caused and for their healing.
At the same time, I am grateful to all of our priests who have labored so tirelessly in the apostolate of Catholic education in the Diocese of Lincoln. I know this has been a tremendously painful time for them as well.
I promised Monday, and I promise to the people of the diocese, that we are doing everything possible to shine the light of Christ’s truth on our diocese so that both healing and accountability can take place. As the Lord promised, “the truth will set us free.” I thank all of you for your continued prayers and patience.
Those who work in our diocesan schools are on the front lines, and are the leaders making sure that our safe environment policies are being implemented and carried out in our schools. I thank them for that. And I truly believe that our schools are safe for children and that they are wonderful environments for formation in Jesus Christ.
The Lord is calling each one of us to holiness — as Catholic school teachers and administrators, priests and religious, parents — as Dr. Matthew Hecker, chief administrative officer of diocesan schools reminded us.
Together we seek truth, goodness and beauty in our Catholic schools.
As teachers respond to their vocation as Catholic educators, the Lord is shaping and forming a new generation of saints through them and making our schools, “schools of holiness.”
Teachers, priests and religious, catechists and parents, please know of my gratitude and appreciation for everything you do. Please know of my support and prayer as you continue this great mission of forming missionary disciples for the Lord.