Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pope's Address to Catholic Educators

A couple weeks ago I sat down and began to figure out how much it was going to cost to continue sending our children to a Catholic School. I was a little more than shocked when I saw the number that appeared in my little Excel spreadsheet.

Please don't get me wrong; I really love the school - that's not the point. But I struggled with the fact that financially it's always ... well ... a struggle. And it's not that tuition for the school is outrageous, in fact it's just the opposite. The tuition for the school is one of the lowest around for Catholic schools, but when you start mixing in 7+ kids, even trips to McDonald's can break you.

I'm sure the fact that I myself never attended a Catholic school, along with knowing may ex-Catholics who did, doesn't help. Going to a Catholic school doesn't automatically produce a better person, Christian, or Catholic, no one would argue that.

Last night I read over a speech the Holy Father gave on the topic of Catholic education on April 17th. Pope Benedict XVI addressed more than 400 Catholic educators in Washington D.C. on not only the importance of a Catholic education, but also what that education should look like. I really found it interesting and helpful and have included a few paragraphs below.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church.

It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church's involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church's primary mission of evangelization?

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God's active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ's "being for others" (cf. ibid., 28).

For anyone interested, I've also created a pdf file which can be downloaded or printed that can be found here.

1 comment:

Joshua 24:15 said...

Thanks Serviam! Wise and beautiful words from the Holy Father.

So, what is the intersection between the inspiration offered by the HF, versus the practical financial reality that you point out? To me, it's a call to action to the entire Church, which means of course all of its parishioners. We need to consider how we might make Catholic education affordable, and to prioritize it when we decide how to use the resources we've been granted.

I know locally this is a looming issue-- how to justify building a Catholic high school, when no one is sure how many parishioners can afford $10,000 a year in tuition? How even to simply maintain our elementary school, in the face of rising costs?

Bottom line: we can, and should, all do more to eliminate this dilemma for the faithful. As Benedict pointed out, it's too important not to figure out.