By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published January 22, 2015 | En Español
Our local Catholic schools here in the Archdiocese represent and continue a very proud legacy of American Catholicism.
Our Catholic schools in the United States are certainly not the only Catholic schools in the world, but these schools of ours do enjoy a special heritage of availability and success. U.S. Catholic schools have played a pivotal role in educating and forming Catholic and non-Catholic students from all societal and economic categories for more than two centuries. In fact, almost all of the Catholic schools in our nation were established to educate the children of working class folks.
These schools have depended and continue to depend upon the strong support of a wide variety of people—first and foremost, the extraordinary numbers of women and men religious who laid the foundation for their success, the equally generous lay staffs who have assisted and frequently replaced those religious in the classrooms and the dedicated pastors and parishioners whose financial support has continued to increase over the years.
At the heart of the success of our Catholic schools has been the close collaboration between parents and teachers who have worked and continue to work together to provide a united approach to educating and forming youngsters to be successful, generous and religiously dynamic citizens. The great host of Americans from all walks of life who have benefited from a Catholic school education are a tribute to all of those who have made these schools accessible and successful. People have sacrificed and continue to do so in order that our Catholic schools maintain that very proud tradition.
Catholic schools not only educate those who come as Catholics already, but also those who may enter the Church because of the great witness of faith and charity that they find in our schools. I myself stand in great debt to a little inner city Catholic school on the South Side of Chicago that not only gave me an excellent academic foundation, but an introduction to Christ Himself.
Today’s challenges are real as the costs of educating a child in a Catholic school continue to increase. We need to work together to face those challenges, and we welcome the assistance of public entities and legislative initiatives that allow parents to choose what they rightfully determine to be the best schools for their children.
Locally, we are proud to partner and collaborate with groups that support parental educational choice, like the Friedman Foundation, that lobby for choice for all parents. We welcome the local legislative opportunities that present parents with school options for their youngsters. We are especially grateful for those opportunities that come to financially disadvantaged families who certainly deserve those options to make a choice for the education and formation of their children.
Our entire nation has benefited from the success of Catholic schools as students from these institutions have become faithful and loyal citizens. Many have assumed positions of leadership and public service that have secured our national health and well-being.
In celebrating Catholic Schools Week, we give thanks not only for those institutions, but for the great good that they have provided for all of society. Catholic schools have helped to make us a stronger and more vibrant nation through the contributions of the students—Catholic and non-Catholic alike—who have benefited from the excellent academic and spiritual formation they have received.
I applaud all those parents who have entrusted their children to our schools, those whose generosity has sustained those schools, and the public entities that continue to assist parents in their desire for a Catholic school education for their children. Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to honor these priceless enterprises as well as all those who help to sustain them and those who sit in the desks in those schools waiting their turn to enrich the societies that anticipate their future contributions.