Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Clarion Herald Column
Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated this week (Jan. 28-Feb. 3). The annual celebration is an opportunity to give thanks for the great gift of education and formation that the church has given to our youth and young adults in the United States.
The mission of Catholic schools is not only to teach the regular academic subjects but also to teach religion and to help students come to know Jesus and to be formed by his life and values.
In my conversations with Catholic school students, I’m often impressed by how much they know about their faith. The environment of a Catholic school helps the young church become more aware of the values of Jesus and how these can be lived out in daily life.
Catholic Schools Week also is an opportunity for me to thank all the presidents, principals, administrators and staff of Catholic schools for their ministry. Likewise, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all the teachers who have chosen Catholic education and see it as their vocation to form young people intellectually and in the ways of Christ.
I’m keenly aware that there are many young people and parents who would like to participate in Catholic education but cannot because of finances. Every time I hear one of these stories, my heart breaks.
Sometimes, the question is asked: Why is Catholic education so expensive? It is expensive because of the salaries that must be paid in justice, as well as the various academic programs that are offered and the ongoing upkeep of our facilities.
I truly believe that anyone who desires Catholic education should have the opportunity; however, because of these financial challenges, it is not possible. I know I can’t print money, but I would love to find a way to make Catholic education more available. We do have some scholarship programs, but, needless to say, these cannot meet all the requests.
We have recently begun taking up an annual second collection called “Champions of Catholic Education.” It will be taken up again this year at all Masses this weekend. Even beyond this collection, donations can be made online at http://nolacatholic.org/donate. Please be as generous as possible to help us provide more tuition assistance for families who need it.
I’m deeply grateful to the parents who value Catholic education and make the necessary sacrifices in order for their child to attend a Catholic school. I also want to remind parents who have their children in public schools, charter schools or other educational programs that their church parish has a religious education program, usually known as the Parish School of Religion. I invite parents to see it as their responsibility to have their children attend the parish school of religion in order to grow in their faith. Sometimes we find students coming to the religious education program just to prepare for first Communion, first confession or confirmation. Those sacred moments in life do require preparation, but there is much more of value in the religious education programs that can help our young people grow in relationship with the Lord Jesus.
I offer my deepest thanks to God for the gifts of Catholic education and our religious education programs. May God bless all of our children, that they may “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God” (Luke 2:52).
Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.