My Dear Friends

My dear friends,

Catholic education has been a hallmark of our faith community for many years. It has been part of our mission right from the very beginning along with care for the sick and our social services. For me, it is a moment when we think of the great impact on the lives of so many individuals — lives that are successful and complete. Our Catholic education system was designed to provide a distinctive value-added dimension to the life of every believer.

Some authors note that even today, our Catholic education system throughout the world educates far more individuals than all the public systems. With the partnership of women and men religious communities and dedicated lay educators, we have fashioned a system of education that involves not only imparting facts but a formation in the faith. I would dare say that Catholic education is an education to discover one’s unique relationship with Christ our Lord, to create an appreciation for our faith community as an active participating disciple, to develop the use of reason, and to pursue the goal of true freedom. In this sense, for us Catholics, our schools are a value-added dimension of our faith community.

This year, Catholic Schools Week is devoted to three interrelated and interlocking pillars: Faith, Excellence, and Service. Each of these pillars is grounded in the fact that we are persons created by God and are answering God’s call to become what God has in mind for each of us.

  1. Faith: There’s no doubt that faith is at the core of our educational system. We are not merely some non-governmental organization (NGO) setting out to do humanitarian projects for the good of people. Our educational endeavor is based on Christ our Lord who charged the Apostles and us: “Go, teach all nations.” We take that charge seriously as we strengthen our Catholic identity throughout our network of elementary, middle school, and high schools around our diocese. Rooted in Christ, our origin and goal, we live for Him every day and seek to proclaim Him boldly through our words and actions.
  2. Excellence: Our Catholic schools seek to bring out the best in our students. We don’t want to settle for minimums — just to “get by.” Our aim is to reach for the stars and become the best we can become — because God made us to become the best of ourselves as a response to our stewardship for the gift of our lives.
  3. Service: More than mere academic knowledge, our Catholic schools aim at being partners in the civic arena to walk with others, to provide help and aid when necessary, and to reach out to the least in our communities. I am continually impressed by those who devise plans to feed the hungry, provide gifts at Christmas, send letters to homebound individuals, and make our communities more human in the process.

So, our goal in Catholic education is to form the entire person — not merely the brain. We form the mind, body, and soul with the goal of becoming disciples and steadfast witnesses of Christ and participating productive citizens, making a valuable contribution to the common good wherever we live and through whatever our Christian vocation might be. That is an important value-added dimension for our Church and our society.

Finally, our Catholic education is not merely for those who grace our schools, it is also the responsibility of every parent to teach their children in the ways of the faith. Our Catholic schools are dedicated partners with parents in doing so. Catholic education is also part of our entire parochial ministry including public and other private school students as well as those students who are home-schooled. Our PSR (Parish School of Religion) programs build themselves on the shoulders of our Catholic schools so that the very life of a Christian can excel beyond our expectations. Lifelong education is for all who are part of our faith community and those who wish to join us along the way. May we walk together on this great journey to freedom and salvation won by Christ, our Lord!

Most Reverend Steven J. Raica

Fifth Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama