Do you recall the second question of the Baltimore Catechism, “Why did God make you?” (The first question was “Who made you?”)
For those who didn’t study the faith from the Baltimore Catechism, you learned the same answer to Question 2, but just in other words. The answer is, “God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.”
This answer to Question 2 is the theme for Catholic Schools Week 2017.
The sole reason Catholic schools exist is to assist parents in their primary obligation of leading their children to God. As a dear School Sister of Notre Dame often says, “We are made by God, for God, and our journey is to God.” Hence, the teaching of the faith is of greatest importance in Catholic schools.
It is both a privilege and a responsibility in Catholic schools to integrate the teaching of God’s truths throughout the entire curriculum, not only in the religion class. Topics in mathematics and business classes require discussion of ethics and honesty. Science classes demand attention to the right to life – from conception to natural death. Issues in social studies classes compel instruction to include the principles of Catholic social teaching. The arts and physical education require consideration of the beauty of creation. Technology classes must address its ultimate use for promoting peace and justice. Language arts and world languages become the vehicles for proclaiming the Good News.
Yes, in a Catholic school, every minute of every day becomes an opportunity to “know him” and the truths of his world.
In coming to know God and his creation, Catholic schools excel also in all the traditional measures of quality education. SAT score averages in our diocesan Catholic high schools place students above the SAT averages in public school districts; elementary TerraNova standardized test score results show diocesan Catholic schools students are in the top 25 percent of the nation. College acceptances and scholarships awards for Catholic school graduates are very impressive. Last year in one Catholic high school, which graduated only 66 students, $8.7 million was earned in scholarships.
Yes, Catholic schools are institutions of academic knowledge plus more!
Just as important as knowing God is loving him. To “love him” is to spend time with him in prayer and to meet him in the sacraments of penance and holy Eucharist. In a Catholic school students regularly receive the sacrament of God’s mercy. Mass is celebrated as a school community at least once monthly, but in most Catholic schools, weekly celebrations are the norm. Students come to love God through daily prayer, seasonal devotions in Advent and Lent, and through traditional practices of Stations of the Cross, Benediction, May Procession, etc.
Lastly, Catholic school students grow each year in their awareness to “serve him.” The list of service opportunities undertaken by students is amazing.
Students serve not only with their treasure, but also with their time and talent. Whether in Wilmington, Dover, and Salisbury, Md.; or in Camden, N.J., the Appalachia region, or in Haiti, Catholic school students from the diocese make a difference by their skills and presence. Service is understood as the living out of the knowing and loving of God.
Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service is a lived reality in the Catholic schools of the diocese. Catholic schools are the place where parents entrust their children every day to come “to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next.”
What a remarkable mission is undertaken in Catholic schools; what an eternal reward is accomplished!
Louis De Angelo, Ed.D., is secretary of the Catholic Education Department of the diocese and superintendent of the Office for Catholic Schools.