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Finding your ‘why’ is part of the role of Catholic schools — Louis De Angelo on Catholic Schools Week

Bishop Koenig addresses students at St. Francis de Sales School in Salisbury, Md., in May.

Simon Sinek, a British author and inspiration speaker, published “Find Your Why” in 2017. In his book Sinek purports that the “why” question is significantly more important than the “who” or “what” questions we may ask about ourselves for the “why” question gets to the core of each of us.

While Sinek’s work has been motivational in business and in other aspects of life for many people, Catholic school education has sought to “find the why” for generations. As we celebrate the 48th anniversary of Catholic Schools Week across the nation this year, we are reminded again that Catholic school education is all about the “why.”

Some supporters of Catholic school education seek to demonstrate the “what” of Catholic schools. They seek to point out that compared with public and charter schools, Catholic schools not only hold their own but generally exceed their counterparts. This fact was recently supported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing. The results of this biennial testing demonstrated this year that “Catholic schools emerged as a bright spot in the NAEP report where they outperformed public and charter schools in reading and mathematics. Catholic school students had steady or increased scores in two categories of the NAEP assessment and Catholic school students have the highest scores in the nation on all four NAEP tests (The Catholic Schools Foundation, 2023).” Very impressive results, and indeed worth celebrating in Catholic Schools Week, but they do not address the “why” of Catholic school education.

The “why” of Catholic education is made clear each day in word and action in the schools of the Diocese of Wilmington. There, students learn to “know, love, and serve God in this world so as to be happy with him forever in heaven.” It is one of the first answers learned in the catechism as to why God made us.

Louis De Angelo
Louis De Angelo

Through countless hours of service to the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly, and the lonely, students recognize why they have been given their special gifts and talents by God. In classes, through readings, and online, students learn why life is such a cherished gift as they encounter the challenges to life that abound in abortion, physician-assisted suicide, drugs, pornography, etc. In the celebration of the Eucharist at weekly school liturgies, students find their center in Jesus Christ and why their school exists.

Yes, as Simon Sinek notes, to “find your why” is indeed a most important task for each of us in life. It does ground us in the core of who we are. In Catholic schools our “why” is clearly evident each and every day. Committed clergy and educators, parents and grandparents, parishioners and businesses contribute their time, talent, and treasure to ensure that our Catholic youth are rooted in faith, nurtured in hope, and strengthened in love. This week, let us celebrate Catholic schools which lead students to “find your why.”

Louis De Angelo is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Wilmington.