During my 60 plus years of living life, I have had the opportunity to live in a number of different places across the mid and southwest United States. I have learned from my moving experiences that it is more cost and energy efficient to keep what I move to a minimum. Packing and sealing boxes—lifting and moving boxes—opening and unpacking boxes—can be a burdensome job especially as I grow older. Consequently, each time it comes to moving, I jettison all the items I can live without. Books not opened in the past two years, knick-knacks in their original packages, and an assortment of clothing that no longer fit for one reason or another are left behind. However, down through the years, no matter where I was moving, there is one treasured gift that I have never discarded—my Catholic school education.
While I was growing up, I was blessed with having parents who believed in Catholic education and worked hard to make it available. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and she saved money by making our clothes, canning fruits and vegetables, and cutting our hair. My father worked a job and a half to help cover the tuition to send his grade school aged children to a parochial school.
From grades one to eight, I rode my bike to St. Joseph Catholic School, a mile and a half from our home. At times, the educational material seemed mystifying and difficult to understand. Nevertheless, the hours spent learning how to spell words, diagramming sentences, writing out times tables, learning by heart the states and their capitals, as well as the many more disciplines that are a foundational part of a liberal arts education have served me well in my adult life. My religious education and faith in God came not so much from textbooks as it did from the examples I saw from my religious and lay teachers. The sacraments, ten commandments, beatitudes, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, social justice, outreach, living virtue, prayer, lives of the saints, holy days, sin, and other religious beliefs did not exist in a theological-philosophical cloud but were a way of living each day with meaning.
From January 28 until February 3, Catholic schools across America will celebrate Catholic Schools Week. This annual celebration was started in 1974 to recognize Catholic education as a great gift to our Church and our nation. The theme of Catholic Schools Week 2018 is, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”
Catholic schools are micro communities, small families in their own right, but also partners in a larger community of home, church, city, and nation. Academic achievement, moral values, and critical thinking along with faith, knowledge, and service are six standards by which any Catholic school can and should be evaluated. These priorities are what make Catholic schools stand out from other educational institutions.During Catholic Schools Week, I encourage members of the Church of St. Matthew who are alumni of St. Matthew School to recall and share a story about their Catholic education with family and friends. I invite all of us to explore the many and different ways the Community of Saints Regional Catholic School is celebrating Catholic Schools Week by visiting their web page at www.communityofsaints.org and to learn more about Catholic School Weeks at: www.ncea.org. A Catholic School education is one treasured gift.
Fr. Bob Kelly