Bishop's Column

Catholic Schools Week 2019

By Bishop James Conley

Inherent in our Catholic faith is the belief that God has revealed to us the “Gospel” or “good news.” Our Lord has revealed himself to us: truth itself, goodness itself, beauty itself.

There are many cultural reasons that we might call ourselves Catholic: growing up in a Catholic home, enjoying the community of a local parish, or finding peace and comfort in the beautiful liturgies of the Church. These are all invaluable aspects of our Catholic faith, serving as a necessary means of evangelization.

More fundamentally, however, we are Catholic because we believe that Jesus Christ has truly given us the “good news.” Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the one who gives our lives purpose, joy, and peace.

The “good news” is light in our darkened, fallen world—and light is meant to shine. Jesus tells us that a lamp is not placed “under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house” (Mt 5:15).

Evangelization is about bringing the light of Christ to the world. And one of the greatest means of evangelization throughout the history of the Church is the work of Catholic education.

It’s important to remember that parents are the primary educators of their children. In fact, parents promise to take on this responsibility at the time of their child’s baptism.

In the Rite of Baptism, the celebrant says the following to the parents of the child who is about to be baptized: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”

Of course, this is a responsibility with many demands, but it is accepted in love, as parents become the instruments of God’s love and salvation. Parents are not alone in this great task. They accomplish it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The family is “the domestic church.” The family is where children learn how to be human; it’s where they learn the faith; it’s where they learn to love.

Jesus himself taught through both his words and his sacrifice. And the faith continues to be handed down from generation to generation through both instruction and the example of saintly lives.

Catholic schools assist parents in their duty as primary educators of their children. The Diocese of Lincoln has a rich tradition of assisting parents in this duty through solid, vibrant and affordable Catholic schools that are faithful to the mission of the Church.

Upon my arrival to the Diocese of Lincoln in 2012, I quickly observed the great treasure of our own Diocesan Catholic Schools. My predecessors placed much emphasis on a strong and affordable Catholic school system. Many sacrifices have been made and resources invested in our diocesan schools for over a hundred years.

Throughout the years, dedicated administrators, teachers and school staff have sacrificed greatly—some with their entire lives—in service to our Catholic schools. Some have given up lucrative careers in other fields by using their God-given gifts to help form our young people. I am grateful for those sacrifices.  

I am grateful to the parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln, which have given sacrificially in support of their parochial and central schools. I am grateful to the many parents, who have also made sacrifices so that their children would receive a Catholic education, buying into the mission of Catholic schools. I am grateful to our benefactors who support our mission and help keep our schools affordable.

Lincoln Diocesan Catholic Schools have been blessed in abundant and profound ways. Aspects of our Catholic school system are truly unique in the United States at this time.

We are blessed to have an abundance of holy, intelligent and caring religious sisters who teach in our elementary and secondary schools. As Brides of Christ, these religious sisters teach our students with their words and witness to be good disciples and good citizens in our world.

The Diocese of Lincoln is also blessed with an abundance of priest-teachers. Many of our current priests themselves attended Catholic schools and were influenced in their own vocations through the witness of faithful and holy priests. When I speak with my brother bishops across the country, they are astounded to hear that most of the high school Theology classes in our diocese are taught by either a priest or religious sister.

We must remember that the many blessings in our Catholic schools come from God himself. All who are involved in Catholic schools must also strive to make them better academically, spiritually, culturally, and financially. 

I am pleased to announce an effort to continue to build on the legacy of strong, affordable Catholic education in the Diocese of Lincoln. The diocese will institute a new scholarship program across all Catholic schools, starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

Through the Good Shepherd Scholarship, the Diocese will balance the need to increase the sustainability of Catholic schools with a continued commitment to provide an excellent faith-based education to students of all income levels. By setting tuition to a standardized minimum across our schools and offering needs-based scholarships, the Diocese can continue to offer an affordable Catholic education to any child. 

This week, the Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week, and I am blessed to spend time each day visiting our Catholic schools. As I make these visits throughout the diocese I am truly edified by the quality of students in our Catholic schools. I see so much hope and promise in our future generations as Catholic schools form our students to be missionary disciples, bringing the light of Christ into our world.

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