January 30, 2013
Faith is a journey that takes a lifetime to complete.
It is during our childhood that we first learn about God and His family, the Church. These are precious years for faith education and formation. Childhood is a critical time in which we begin to develop a personal relationship with Jesus, identify ourselves as Catholic Christians and learn how to live what we learn.
As young children, we learn how to pray and we begin to develop the life-long discipline of daily prayer. Our parents have the awesome privilege and great responsibility in leading their children in the ways of faith during these critical years of their children’s lives. The family provides the setting where this journey of faith is formed, supported and celebrated.
For generations, many parents have chosen Catholic schools to assist them in their parental responsibility in the education and faith formation of their children.
In an address at his 2008 visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI stated that “Catholic schools are an outstanding apostolate of hope.” Why? Because Catholic education is anchored in the conviction that Jesus Christ provides the most comprehensive example of the realization of full human potential.
Every time I enter one of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, I immediately sense the joy and hope that only a Christ-centered environment can provide. We desire that our children become all they can be, to meet their fullest potential. Every aspect of school life: the classes, special programs and the entire school environment fosters a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as well as witness to the Gospel message of love of God and neighbor and service to the world.
In a society that continues to squeeze the sacred out of daily living, in a world where material things and private desires (no matter how sinful) trump the common good and family values, the Catholic school can make a difference for tomorrow. It provides an invaluable service to our parents and society.
Through the years, parents and parishioners in our North Country have sacrificed much in order to support a Catholic school in their neighborhood. Sadly, for a variety of reasons, our Catholic schools, particularly here in the Northeast, continue to see declining enrollments. Escalating costs and decreasing revenue are two factors that continue to make our schools’ viability so fragile. In many settings, the Catholic school is an extreme burden on the parish’s finances. As a previous pastor myself of parishes with schools, I appreciate the great gift and the tremendous challenge in sustaining a strong, viable parish school. We all must convince our Catholic parents that our Catholic schools offer students the opportunity for an excellent education in a Catholic Christian setting. This means more than having a crucifix mounted on the wall or a statue of Mary on a table in the corner of a classroom. The Catholic faith is the living, breathing soul of the school community. Where this is not the case, the Church’s support should be questioned.
We know, particularly during this Year of Faith, that the entire Catholic community is called to evangelize our culture. The Catholic school plays a critical and irreplaceable role in this endeavor.
The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2013 is Catholic Schools Raise the Standards. Catholic schools have a proud history of always aiming for academic excellence while fostering spiritual growth in the traditions of the Catholic faith.
This Catholic Schools Week I wish to congratulate and express words of gratitude to the pastors, principals, faculty and staff at our schools who work so hard in support of Catholic schools.
The Church is grateful to those parents who send their children to our schools and thankful to our parishioners whose prayers and financial support enable our schools to continue participating in the Church’s mission of evangelizing.
We pray that more of our parents will choose a Catholic school as a suitable partner in helping to form and guide their most precious treasures for the journey of life, following Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Bishop LaValley spends time at each of the Catholic schools in the diocese through the year. To the left, he is pictured at Notre Dame Church in Malone after a Mass for Holy Family School.