| By The Most Reverend Steven J. Raica

‘A future full of hope’

My friends, every year, Catholic Schools Week is celebrated throughout the United States during the last week in January. So, with this issue, I highlight the importance of Catholic education as an essential component of the mission of our Church. From the very beginning, our Lord commanded His disciples: “Go into the whole world and teach all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19-20) It doesn’t get any more direct than that! Our efforts throughout the diocese to promote and foster Catholic education has become one of our main priorities to fulfill what the Lord asks of us. While education, and indeed a “Catholic education,” and Catholic schools by extension, is a broad subject for my reflection here, our schools (both parochial and diocesan) have to be one of our key priorities today. In doing so, we happily partner with parents, who are the first and primary teachers of their children.

Near the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis clearly stated the mission of Catholic schools to a group of participants in the World Congress on Catholic Education held on Nov. 21, 2015: “Education cannot be neutral. It is either positive or negative; either it enriches or it impoverishes; either it enables a person to grow or it lessens, even corrupts him. The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful.” That still holds true today. We must distinguish ourselves from other providers of education by focusing our energies on our young people who have so much to gain by a sound education and so much to lose when the opportunity is missed. It is the formation of a heart which seeks the heart of Christ, in all of its rich dimensions, that motivates us to do what we do.

Fundamentally, education is about introducing someone to the totality of all that is real. So, one who is in this vocation must awaken a thirst, a hunger, a passion for, a true desire for what is true and beautiful — for justice and for love. (cf. L. Giussani in www.veritasjournal.org).

Our schools are dedicated to this mission. Together, we are a formidable team to provide the best possible foundation for our students to equip them to face the complex challenges that tomorrow brings. At the same time, by fulfilling the Lord’s command to teach all nations, we are forming disciples of Christ who pursue kingdom values. Our energies remain steadfast so that we can accomplish this important task.

The alumni from our Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Birmingham have demonstrated the fact that they can excel in life because of the sound education they received. From Nobel Prize winners, to an archbishop in diplomatic service, to teachers, scientists, lawyers, engineers, security, priests and sisters, social workers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, and much more, our schools have provided young people with an essential edge regarding faith, life, and future. It makes a difference for our world and our society to have such dedicated citizens of faith assume roles of leadership and service.

In a very particular way, I thank Margaret Dubose and her team, along with the principals, teachers, aides and staff, pastors, parents, and generous benefactors, who make all of this possible. It is worth our time, talent, and treasure.

Yes, we are fulfilling the Lord’s command to “teach all nations!” When all is said and done, we can assert that we have committed ourselves to provide a return on our investment in the lives of our children for a future full of hope. May God bless you all!

The Most Reverend Steven J. Raica is the Fifth Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama

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