Pope Benedict and Blessed Newman Champion Catholic Education

Why do families entrust their children to Catholic schools? The following reflection by David G. Bonagura Jr., published over at CatholicThing.org very aptly summarizes the main purpose of Catholic education.

We share this with you because many families involved in Catholic education sacrifice a great deal to send their children to a school such as ours. These are profound words of encouragement that ought to strengthen and solidify our resolve to continue pressing forward with the overall mission of our school: the total and complete formation of the embodied soul - the human person.

"Catholic education, from primary school through the university level, counters this narrow perspective by opening the student to God’s plan for creation: “In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people.” Echoing Jesus in the upper room, Benedict reminded pupils that they are not called to be slaves of the world; they are to be friends of the Lord whom they will love more deeply by studying His creation.

Following Newman, Benedict twice asserted that education must never serve purely utilitarian goals. Education “is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator.” Catholic education is at its best when, following Newman, it seeks an “environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline, and religious commitment would come together.” When properly cultivated, this environment educates the whole person, and, “over and above this, should help all its students to become saints.”

Benedict’s exhortations present a compelling rationale and orientation for Catholic education on the western side of the Atlantic, where Catholic primary and secondary schools are struggling desperately to stay afloat in competition with state sponsored monopolies. Catholic schools too often try to promote themselves with pithy slogans about “faith and values” without articulating what the words mean or how they fulfill the true mission of education. Benedict’s presentation to children on the nature of Catholic education is likely to be far more appealing and effective at attracting new families to Catholic schools than any chancery sponsored advertising campaign designed by secular marketers...

The pressing “subjects of the day” that Benedict challenged in Britain – and has challenged throughout his papacy and long theological career – require “an intelligent, well-instructed laity” as envisioned by Newman and repeated by Benedict. Catholic schools have been and must continue to be the backbone of the Catholic engagement of modernity. But as both Benedict and Newman agree, we need not only arguments but also “the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity, and holiness.” We need saints, and for that we need Catholic schools today as much as ever."

We are extremely grateful for the innumerable sacrifices made by families - parents and children alike - who entrust their children to the Lord through Catholic education. We are always in desperate need of your spiritual and moral support. We plead with you, please continue to pray for the mission of our school as we advance forward with the 2010 - 2011 school year. May families and Catholic educators unite to become instruments of God's plan to fashion and mold saints who will inevitably serve His Kingdom of Love both now, and forever.