Bishop's Column

In praise of Catholic schools

If you want to build Catholic culture, the surest plan is to build a Catholic school.

Catholic schools help form Catholic hearts and minds, Catholic families, and Catholic neighborhoods in Catholic civilizations.   

For centuries, the Church has used schools as anchors of Catholic communities—from the monastic schools which helped spread the faith across Europe, to the universities which formed the first leaders of Catholic nations, to the Catholic elementary and high schools in the United States which have welcomed immigrants, and pioneers, and the poor.

The new book, “Lost Classroom, Lost Community,” written by University of Notre Dame law professors Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett, confirms what the Church has always known—that the presence of a Catholic school builds social cohesion, neighborliness, and even public virtue in a community.

In 1998, St. John Paul II told the bishops of the United States that “Catholic education aims not only to communicate facts but also to transmit a coherent, comprehensive vision of life, in the conviction that the truths contained in that vision liberate students in the most profound meaning of human freedom.”  The mission of a Catholic school, he told them, “is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such, work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.”

“Lost Classroom, Lost Community” provides empirical evidence that the mission of Catholic education, in our country, is working.  The authors found that in neighborhoods with Catholic schools, crime rates are lower, neighbors have greater trust in one another, and, generally, people have more positive feelings about their communities and their futures.  Nicole Stelle Garnett says that by the mission of Catholic education, the “Church was saying to the community, by virtue of educating these children so well: Look, we believe in you, we trust you, we think there’s good that could be done here.”

The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lincoln have done tremendous good in our state.  In urban and rural parishes, our Catholic schools are an anchor of community life, and a sign of hope—a sign that every child can be formed in truth, in virtue, and in freedom.  Our Catholic school graduates achieve tremendous success at the college and professional level—but more importantly, they achieve success in the whole of life—in living life virtuously, and in living as disciples of Jesus Christ.

A new school year began in our diocese just a few weeks ago.  Already, our teachers and administrators are at work inspiring hearts and minds—captivating our students with the mystery and the beauty of our faith.

Whatever we teach in Catholic schools, we teach Christ most of all.  Whatever our curriculum or strategic plan, our most important proclamation is life in Jesus Christ.  What we do in education is worthwhile if young men and women are inspired to live their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.  There is no school lesson that can be more inspirational than the witness of teachers and administrators who are alive in the faith.

Similarly, the parents who chose Catholic school witness to the importance of formation in virtue and holiness.  They make sacrifices to support our schools, to support out school communities, and to support our students.  I’m grateful, sincerely, for the parents and teachers and administrators who make our schools thriving Catholic centers of intellectual, personal, and spiritual formation.

I pray that each of us will continue to support Catholic education.  I pray that you will encourage other families to enroll their children in our Catholic schools.   And I pray that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our schools may form minds, hearts, wills, and communities alive in Jesus Christ.

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