This past week approximately 10,000 students in parish, regional, diocesan and private Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington were welcomed back to their schools by almost 1000 educators and staff. The 2016-2017 school year is underway!
Plans for the 2016-2017 school year began last December, and, in some cases, earlier. Administrators and teachers set calendars, designed schedules and rosters, acquired resources, planned activities and athletics, finalized budgets, etc. Parents chose particular schools for new students, began tuition payments, and purchased technology and uniforms. All of this occurred in preparation for the 2016-2017 school year.
What happens now depends upon the dash – the small line between the numbers 2016 and 2017 printed three times in the previous two paragraphs. It is in the dash that the best quality Catholic education available to the young people will occur. The dash represents what Catholic schools will do between August 2016 and June 2017. The dash speaks to the mission of Catholic schools to foster faith formation, to promote academic rigor, to encourage service, and to plan for students’ futures as leaders in the church and in the world.
Catholic schools are partners with parents and parishes in the faith formation of young people. They assist parents in fulfilling the commitment made at their child’s baptism to be the first and best teachers of their child in the faith.
Through the support of the parish community and the daily teaching of the faith in Catholic school, not only in religion class but imbued throughout the day, this goal can be realized. This year the diocesan-wide theme in Catholic schools is Veni, Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit). Through Scripture, prayer, and instruction, students will grow in their understanding of the power of God’s Spirit in their lives. Educators will strive to develop the nine fruits (virtues) of the Spirit as described by St. Paul – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – in their students.
Accompanying faith formation in Catholic schools is academic rigor. Catholic schools continue to enjoy the reputation for the highest academic quality. By formal and informal measures, they educate young people to succeed not only in college and careers, but in the soft skills necessary for a successful life. Formal measures place Catholic students in elementary schools in the top 25 percent on national standardized assessment. High school students surpass national, state, and most local districts in SAT scores.
Even more impressive, Catholic school students are technologically savvy, utilizing these tools daily in one-to one environments in many schools. They exhibit critical thinking and collaboration in their learning and demonstrate facility with a host of communication skills.
Service continues to be a hallmark of Catholic school education. More than collecting and giving to those in need, Catholic school students are about doing for others. They can be found on the scene where action is required.
High school students work on service trips in the United States and in other places in the world. Elementary school students travel to local nursing facilities, senior centers, soup kitchens, and other places where assistance is appreciated. Living the works of mercy is essential to Catholic school education.
Truly, a lot will happen in the dash between the numbers 2016-2017. It is in the dash that the future leaders of the church and the world are developed to be faith-filled, well-educated, and service-oriented young men and women. Thank you to parents who value the dash, educators who work in the dash, and all Catholics who pray for the dash this 2016-2017 school year in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington.
De Angelo is Secretary of the diocesan Education Department and Superintendent of the Office for Catholic Schools.