Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Catholic Educators Encouraged To Face Challenges Ahead

By MARK PATTISON, CNS | Published April 27, 2006

Catholic schools have a precedent from which they can learn how to break through when things look rough, according to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

“The church of Jesus Christ was born in challenging times!” he said, echoing the theme of the National Catholic Educational Association’s 103rd annual convention, “Charting the Future in Challenging Times.”

“From our very beginnings, we have faced difficulties that would have overwhelmed ordinary people,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily at the NCEA convention’s opening Mass April 18.

The convention was relocated to Atlanta after the original site, New Orleans, became unsuitable following Hurricane Katrina last summer.

“Catholic educators are the heirs to the legacy of faith that was born in those challenging times,” the archbishop said, alluding to the Gospel reading for the Mass, in which the apostles knew that Jesus was dead—but did not yet know that he had risen.

“Yours is the great opportunity to continue the proclamation of Christ risen from the dead and to invite today’s generation to come to the same issue of faith that will result in people even today asking the basic question ‘what are we to do?’” Archbishop Gregory said.

He called it a “temptation” within the church “to believe that yesterday was the zenith of our lives.”

He said, “Catholic schools in the United States have known many great and cherished moments,” thanks to men and women Religious who founded schools across the United States, making Catholic education available “to literally hundreds of thousands of families and hundreds of diverse communities. It was a grand moment to be sure.”

Now, Archbishop Gregory said, laypeople “whose generosity and dedication is no less a treasure” are guiding much of Catholic education.

“We must face a future that will not be exactly the same as the past, but not necessarily any less glorious or worthy of the church of Christ,” he said.

“Even as we redesign Catholic schools in many areas that have seen significant demographic shifts in population and establish new schools for growing communities, we cannot lose heart or cease to focus on the mission that comes to us from apostolic times—to proclaim Christ risen from the dead,” Archbishop Gregory said.

“If we look only at yesterday and at the models and triumphs that we enjoyed, we may not be able to see the great possibilities that tomorrow holds for us,” he said.

The archbishop also took note of the large numbers of non-Catholics attending Catholic schools “because they recognize and honor the heritage of excellence that is the legacy of Catholic schools.”

The celebration of Catholic education that is part of an NCEA convention, Archbishop Gregory said, is done with delegates “fully aware of and grateful for the structures and organizational strength of the past, but open to responding to the challenges that we face today.”

About 5,000 registered participants took part in NCEA activities in Atlanta through April 21.