Teaching children to know, love, and serve God Print
Bishop Hying's Column
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
Bishop Donald J. Hying's column

As another school year begins and we lament the rapid passage of summer, I ponder the gift and blessing of our children and young people — the greatest treasure of the Church and the world.

Our Diocese pours significant resources into the formation of our children and youth, through our schools, religious education programs, and youth ministry.

And rightfully so. We want each child to know, love, and serve God. We want each young person to be a zealous disciple of the Lord Jesus. We want each person to grow up, flourishing in the abundant life of the Gospel, becoming the saint that God has called them to be.

Advocate of Catholic Schools

I have always been a big advocate of Catholic schools. Every study shows that graduates of parochial schools practice the Faith, support the Church, contribute to the poor, have a keener sense of social justice, and are more successful in their vocations than the average population.

A learning environment imbued in faith and love, permeated by prayer, and strong in Christian values becomes a blessed, formative experience that impacts the whole person — soul, body, mind, and heart.

Many Catholic school teachers say that they love teaching in a place where they do not have to leave their faith at the door and compartmentalize the soul.

Facing challenges today

Catholic schools face many challenges today. Declining enrollment. Increasing costs. Fewer available teachers. Crumbling structures.

We may pine for the good old days when our schools were filled, a plethora of Religious Sisters served in thousands of classrooms, and tuition was minimal.

I had to go to public school until third grade because my parish school had no room for those lower grades. Those days are gone, but we cannot look back in nostalgia.

Celebrating diocesan schools

I celebrate our schools here in the Diocese of Madison. Many are small. Some are struggling. All are providing a quality education which is academically rigorous, spiritually impactful, and morally formative.

Several weeks ago, I met with all of the Catholic school principals and left both impressed and inspired by their faith, dedication, generosity, and competence.

Our schools are worth the sacrifices we make because our children are worth it. I offer prayers, gratitude, and blessings to our Schools Office, our principals, teachers, staff, students, parents, and benefactors as we begin another year of growth in the Lord!

Religious formation in diocese

I also applaud and support our religious formation efforts in our parishes.

Our pastors, religious education directors, and catechists, many of whom are volunteers, form our children and young people very well, despite the limits of busy schedules, time constraints, and tight budgets.

Most programs have the children for two hours a week at most, often at the end of a busy school day or during an even busier weekend.

Despite these challenges, our leaders build a culture of faith, seeking to equip our children and young people to know and love the Lord in a society that does not always support the spiritual life.

To everyone involved in faith formation and youth ministry in our diocese, from our central offices to each parish, I offer my prayers and gratitude.

Parents teach the ways of faith

A fundamental truth that we do not highlight often enough is the essential importance of parents as the primary educators/formators of their children in the ways of faith.

Ideally, the family and the home is the sacred place where children first learn about God, know Jesus, begin to pray, understand the faith, and live the moral life.

Our schools and religious education programs can only supplement what happens at home; they can never replace it. We need to help form, support, and lead our parents in their understanding and practice of the Faith, so that they, in turn, can effectively pass it on to their beloved children.

When I think of my childhood, I am profoundly grateful for my parents who modeled, taught, and inspired the faith in their children. They made the practice of the Catholic Faith feel as normal and right as eating, playing, and reading.

Supporting the formation of our young people

How can all of us support the formation of our young people?

Model and teach the Faith to the young people in your life. Ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to engage them about religious issues.

They are interested and want to talk about such things. Engage and thank the leaders and staff in your parish and school who dedicate themselves so generously to the task of youth formation. Volunteer to help them in some way.

Pray for the fruitful success of our evangelizing and catechizing efforts. There is nothing more important.

May this upcoming year of Catholic formation be fruitful and transformative!