Catholic schools foster a future of faith
By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice
A Catholic education offers students more than reading, writing and arithmetic skills. It also provides a religious and value-based education from which students can form strong Christian morals.
The week of Jan. 25 through Jan. 31 is Catholic Schools Week and the theme for this year's 30th annual celebration is "Catholic Schools: A Faith-Filled Future."
For Sister Michelle Faltus, SFCC, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Omaha, a faith-filled future means that "the children we educate in our Catholic schools will take their faith into the future, live it and pass it on to their children so it will continue."
That future starts by having teachers that are knowledgeable about the faith themselves, she said.
"Before you can provide value-based education to children, you have to instruct your teachers," Sister Faltus told The Catholic Voice. "Our teachers have to understand and appreciate their Catholic faith and the traditions, the heritage."
In his keynote address to Catholic school educators in April 2003, Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said those who teach in Catholic schools "are the key to the Church's ability to accomplish its goal to create ways to pass on the faith to the next generation."
He also said it is necessary for Catholic school teachers to be trained in the faith through programs "grounded in a solid faith mission" and "authentically Catholic."
In the Archdiocese of Omaha, every teacher and administrator in the archdiocese's 78 Catholic schools is required to take one course each year through the Foundations of Faith program. The courses, which include lessons on liturgy, sacraments, morality and Church history, provide a common base of knowledge, foster a spirit of collaboration, build confidence and offer continuity for educators who can then incorporate that information into their curriculums, Sister Faltus said.
"Once you get your teachers to a point where they appreciate their Catholic faith, then they can pass that on to students," she said.
That job can be difficult, especially in today's society, she said, where children are given mixed messages through media, television and movies about what is acceptable behavior. Catholic schools teach a countercultural view and teachers have to be strong enough to tell children "what's right and what's wrong," she said.
With a strong sense of Catholic teachings, morals and values, Catholic school students are more prepared to go out into the world and live their faith, she added.
"We would hope that they would be so faith-filled when they leave our schools that they would go out and spread that among their communities, be active members of their parishes, be active in the community, and even in their places of work."