I’d like to wish all of you a happy Catholic Schools Week! Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation. Here is the link for the national Catholic Schools Week.
I’m often asked of West Catholic Prep, and of many of our Catholic schools, “how Catholic are these schools?” There’s a simple answer – “very, just come and see!” But, I realize not all can take the opportunity to walk our halls. As a curious person myself, this is a fair question and one worth examination.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B. delivered a keynote at the Secretary for the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education in 2005 addressing this issue. He stated:
Like the marks of the Church proclaimed in the Creed – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic – so, too, does the Holy See identify the principal features of a school as Catholic: a Catholic school should be inspired by a supernatural vision, founded on Christian anthropology, animated by communion and community, imbued with a Catholic worldview throughout its curriculum, and sustained by gospel witness. These benchmarks help to answer the critical question: Is this a Catholic school according to the mind of the Church?
Let’s see how West Catholic Prep performs within these features as Miller defines them.
1. Inspired by a Supernatural Vision
The Church sees education as a process that, in light of man’s transcendent destiny, forms the whole child and seeks to fix his or her eyes on heaven. The overarching goal of a West Catholic Prep education is to form young people who will be good citizens of this world, loving God and neighbor and enriching society, who will also be citizens of the world to come.
2. Founded on a Christian Anthropology
Catholic theology teaches that grace builds on nature. Because of this complementarity of the natural and the supernatural, Catholic educators should have a sound understanding of the human person that addresses the requirements of both the natural and the supernatural perfection of the children entrusted to their care.
West Catholic Prep in not a factory for the learning of various skills and competencies designed to fill the needs of business and industry. Yes, there’s an element of business in education, but, our students are not “clients” or “consumers.” West Catholic Prep is a school that deals with people, young people, and we always have the human person at the core of our work. The purpose of Lasallian Education is “to provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially to the poor, according to the ministry which the Church has entrusted to it.”
3. Animated by Communion and Community
A third mark of catholicity is the emphasis on the school as a community – a community of persons and, even more to the point, “a genuine community of faith.” There is no better feature at West Catholic Prep than this one! The West Catholic community is a harmonious mix of age, race, color, and creed that celebrates the commonality of all things West Catholic! Achieving this, or celebrating it, has not happened automatically.
Developing community means building trust, connecting to one another, and achieving some level of agreement on what is worth living as sacrificing for. All of these tasks take time and work, so we are especially proud of the community that is the West Catholic Family.
4. Imbued with a Catholic Worldview throughout its Curriculum
A fourth distinctive characteristic of Catholic schools is that the “spirit of Catholicism” should permeate the entire curriculum. Catholic education is “intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person.” It is too narrow to think this means that the school’s distinctiveness lies only in the quality of its religious instruction, or pastoral activities – actually that’s way off the mark as the Holy See defines it!
At West Catholic Prep we try to embody genuine catholicity in all we do – curriculum, programs, and projects. As Lasallian educators specifically, it is our responsibility to educate the whole child, addressing the requirements of his or her natural and supernatural perfection. There is nothing I enjoy more than standing in front of our students in community in the auditorium and finding a way to provide meaningful, Catholic, context to any event for our young people
5. Sustained by Gospel Witness
A final indicator of a school’s authentic catholicity is the vital witness of its teachers and administrators. With them lies the primary responsibility for creating a Christian school climate, as individuals and as a community. The Holy See’s documents pay a great deal of attention to the vocation of teachers and their participation in the Church’s evangelizing mission. Theirs is a supernatural calling and not simply the exercise of a profession.
Teaching in a Catholic school is not a profession, but a vocation! If Catholic Schools Week celebrates all things Catholic Education, there is nothing more important to celebrate in Catholic education than the educators that join in communion each day with our young people to advance the mission of the Church.
Next time the topic of Catholicity in our Catholic schools might cross your conversations, I encourage you to share the good news of West Catholic Prep! Remember, there truly is no better answer then “come and see!” Happy Catholic Schools Week and thank you for being part of our special West Catholic Family.