Catholic schools pay dividends for life Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

Catholic Schools Week is the annual national celebration of the important role of Catholic grade and high schools which emphasize not only academics but also spiritual, moral, and social values. This year Catholic Schools Week is observed from January 31 to February 6.

Its theme is "Dividends for Life." Parents, teachers, administrators, students, and others invest valuable time, talent, and resources in Catholic schools. The dividends of their investment last for a lifetime and into eternity. According to Karen Ristau, National Catholic Educators Association president, there is no better way to invest in a child's future or the future of the world.

In the bishop's document To Teach as Jesus Did, it says that a Catholic school embraces three interlocking dimensions. These are the message revealed by God (didache) which the Church proclaims; fellowship in the life of the Holy Spirit (koinonia); and service to the Christian community and the entire human community (diakonia). Catholic schools also offer opportunities for prayer and worship.

To teach as Jesus did

To Teach as Jesus Did also says, "The vision of this threefold educational ministry is ambitious. Were it of human origin, one might despair of its attainment. But since it represents God's plan, it must be energetically pursued."

To pursue it best, the Catholic school needs the community of parents, teachers, administrators, the Holy Spirit, and others working together. The school builds upon the foundation of values, attitudes, and knowledge laid by parents. Parents are their children's primary religious educators.

The document continues, "If the three fold purpose of Catholic education is to be realized, it must be through the teachers' commitment to give instructions to their students, build community among them, and serve them."

Teachers represent Jesus who is the primary teacher in Catholic schools. They love their students, sacrifice for them, and burn with the desire to help them learn and grow. Principals provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis for faculty and help them to integrate message, community, service, and worship into the curriculum.

"Religion is not just one more subject alongside the rest. Instead it is the foundation upon which the student's experiences of learning and living achieve their coherence and deeper meaning," says To Teach as Jesus Did. In Catholic schools the student learns to critique challenging issues from a Catholic moral perspective.

Knowledge guided by the Truth

Guided by the bishop, the basic teachings of the Church are taught in a unique explicit way. Students learn that God has a plan for each of us. Earth is our temporary home and heaven is our eternal home

In Catholic schools, knowledge is guided by the truth that it can be a window through which we glimpse hints of our Creator. Whether it be a beautiful sunset described poetically, or the intricate laws of math, or science that reveals the mini-universe of a cell, all knowledge is guided by the belief that it can reflect or point to God who ultimately authored it.

The Church believes that the message of Jesus is best learned when it is experienced in a Christian community, actively engaged in service to God, Church, and neighbor. This community is fed by God's word, tradition, prayer, worship, and past and present witnesses of Christ. Students and teachers pray together, work together, and support each other as a community of persons united in Jesus.

Catholic schools teach students that they are to use their loan of time, talents, and treasure as stewards to serve others and help to make earth a more Christ-like place. When we die, God will ask us to give an accounting of our stewardship.

'Different Where It Counts'

Catholic Schools Week was a special week in parishes where I served and at Beloit Catholic High, where I taught for 20 years. In my judgment, Catholic schools pay dividends because, as the slogan of the first Catholic schools week in 1974 expressed, they are "Different Where It Counts -- Message, Community and Service."

On October 22, 1978, Pope John Paul II told youth, "You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the Church." Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to touch the future by sharing Christ with youth.

Above the desk of a principal whom I admired hung a plaque, "Good teachers affect eternity. You never know where their influence stops."

Catholic teachers taught me basics of faith, nourished my vocation to the priesthood, and helped me realize that Catholic schools pay dividends on earth and in heaven. I thank God for the basics in religion and other subjects that I learned at Immaculate Conception School in Kieler.

To paraphrase Fr. John Shea, "Catholic school teachers helped to put heaven in my heart." May Catholic Schools Week help us to express and deepen our appreciation of Catholic schools.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.