Friday, February 3, 2012
Friday Thoughts - Reflections on Catholic Education
We are at the end of Catholic Schools Week. Catholic education is something that is near and dear to my heart, not only because of the call the Lord has put on my heart as priest, who is both preacher and teacher, but, also, because I understand the great power and gift of Catholic education today in the United States.
Over the past sixty years, there has been a drastic change in Catholic education. It is first felt by the students. Teaching orders have significantly diminished in vocations and have been forced to pass their ministry to the laity. Don't get me wrong the best teachers I have had are lay. However, the lay teacher is, in a sense divided. He or she must first provide for children. This puts Catholic schools in a precarious situation, without government grant money, they cannot pay their teachers a competitive salary. The pay difference between public and Catholic school teachers here in New Orleans is about the price of new car. Whereas before the religious orders staffed the school because it was an integral part of their vocation as religious. For them it was community, prayer, and teaching.
To a certain extent devoted lay faithful have taken over that charism and have forfeited greater wage for the sake of the mission of Catholic education. I am all to grateful for that sacrifice. I would have been deprived of a Catholic education otherwise. I was not taught by a religious until my first semester of college seminary at a Benedictine monastery. That was twelve years of Catholic education provided by lay faithful. Some communicated their faith well. Some did not have a faith to communicate. My vocation indeed was fostered in way by their sacrifice.
As a student I did not understand their sacrifice at all, but by their silent witness of less pay for the sake of teaching in a Catholic school softened and prepared my heart for the day when the Lord would ask me to sacrifice my life.
That being said. I did not learn about the Tradition of the Church in any depth, other than sexuality and a short introduction to the Church Fathers in high school, until I arrived at seminary. Consecrated religious teaching in Catholic schools is by its existence a witness of faith. However, they have also entered into the Tradition of the Church and can communicate it while teaching about photosynthesis or multiplication tables. In their own study, they encountered Christ there.
Let us pray specifically for the growth in vocations of these teaching orders that the Lord is calling to re-catechize the Catholic education culture. Their witness was invaluable to the growth in faith of our grandparents and to some of our parents. At that same time, we need to pray in thanksgiving for the devoted laity who have stepped into and taken over the charism of these teaching orders.
St. Dominic, pray for us
St. John Bosco, pray for us
St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, pray for us
St. Angela Merici, pray for us
St. Katherine Drexel, pray for us
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us