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Archbishop George J. Lucas greets first graders Lydia Julian, left, and Shyquan Foster after an all-school Mass Aug. 29 celebrating the 100th anniversary of Holy Name School as first-grade teacher Angelica O’Brien looks on. The school is one of 53 elementary and 17 secondary schools in the archdiocese, many marking Catholic Schools Week with special activities. MIKE MAY/STAFF

Excellent Catholic schools the result of faith-filled sacrifice

Excellent Catholic schools 

the result of faith-filled sacrifice

As this column is published we will be wrapping up the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week here in the Archdiocese of Omaha and across our country. I have had the opportunity this week to celebrate Mass with groups of students and teachers representing both rural and urban schools. This gave me the chance to tell them how much I appreciate our schools and all those who make them outstanding communities of faith and learning. I want to take a little time here to share some of that appreciation with all of you.

For a diocese of our size, we have an unusually large number of Catholic schools. Of course, I am happy to brag about that in other places, but we are not involved in a contest to see who has the most. I am very happy to boast about what our schools represent within the church and the community.

First, I see the commitment of disciples of Jesus Christ to support one another and to share the joy of the Gospel with others. Faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, risen from the dead, shapes the mission of each school. We have the privilege of introducing our students to a deeper and more personal encounter with Jesus. They experience the joy of becoming his disciples and his friends. Opportunities are provided for faculty and staff to grow in a mature relationship with the Lord, for their own sake and for the sake of a more authentic witness for their students. Increasingly, our schools (and the parishes that sponsor them) are providing tools for the formation of parents, equipping them to be missionary disciples in their own homes.

This brings us to a second quality of our schools of which we can be proud: They support families. God gives to parents both the right and the responsibility to form their children in faith and in every other aspect of life. Catholic schools provide vibrant partnerships with parents for the education and faith formation of their children. Parents are expected to be involved in the schools in appropriate ways, and they are. They make a choice of a Catholic school; no one chooses it for them. And for most families, this choice involves a significant sacrifice.

Our schools have always operated on sacrifice, and we see this not as something merely to be put up with, but it is a real sign of strength. It should not surprise us to see followers of Jesus making sacrifices for the benefit of others, but we do not take it for granted. Parents often make significant sacrifices to provide a Catholic education for their children. However, that rarely covers the real cost. The larger parish and school alums give regularly and generously to fill the gap. Much can be accomplished with these resources because of the willing sacrifices of teachers, staff and administrators.

What do we get as a result of so much faith-filled sacrifice? We get excellent schools. This is not simply a boast, it is a matter of record over many generations. Catholic schools are operated locally, and each one has distinctive characteristics. It is impressive to see how much can be done with modest resources and with a commitment to excellence in each setting. Test scores and graduation rates across economic, cultural and racial categories show that this commitment pays off for our students. They become well prepared for future education and to take their places as mature members of the community.

An important hallmark of our Catholic schools is the respect that is shown for each student and family. Each boy and girl is recognized as a child of God, with a dignity that does not have to be earned. Students grow in confidence that they are loved by God and grow in a healthy self-respect as they experience the respect of others in the school community. The discipline for which Catholic schools are known is at the service of the respect for self and others to which we are called by God. Our safe environment policies reflect the dignity that we see in each of God’s children. These policies have been in place for many years, and we are committed to see that they are up-to-date and effective.

We have a proud tradition in this archdiocese of Catholic education. Members of the Catholic community and other generous neighbors offer the material support that is needed year by year. And the whole community is enriched as our students are formed and educated to become leaders in families and in the workplace, as well as to see the service of others as a privilege and a responsibility.

In the Archdiocese of Omaha, we are praying and working to become more fully what our pastoral vision calls us to be: One church, encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy. Our Catholic schools are positioned to be a great resource in realizing this vision. The encounter with Jesus must be experienced as well as studied. Becoming equipped as missionary disciples is not as easy to measure as reading proficiency, but we should see it happening in our students and parents. 

I offer my congratulations and thanks to all who contribute to the good work of Catholic education in any way. Please join me in asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to help us come closer to Jesus and to lead others to life in him by our witness.

Download the archbishop’s podcast, The Shepherd’s Voice, at archomaha.fireside.fm or subscribe on iTunes.

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