By Mary Rochford
I could provide a significant number of success stories coming from the 182 elementary schools, 20 secondary schools, and five schools of special education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I have the data to “wow” the public with statistics to prove that a Catholic education significantly prepares a student for college, for the workplace, and for life.
For now, I will depart from the pressure of statistics while speaking to the current-day Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. What goes on within our school buildings over the 180 days in the life of a Catholic school student?
Our mission is alive and well in the Archdiocese. If St. John Neumann were to return to our schools, he would immediately recognize that the mission hasn’t grown old or weak.
In this Year of Saint Paul, we join with the entire Catholic Church in taking a closer look at our journey of conversion to the mind and heart of Jesus. We continually call the students to a relationship with Christ. Within classroom discussions, in relationships between teacher and student, student with student, and in a daily faith-filled environment, Catholic schools are filled with graces and blessings.
This strong Catholic identity is evident as students move from religion to science to social studies to math to art to PE. From technology to medical careers, pre-engineering, to world languages and a host of other offerings – at every turn, Christ is there…integrated into every curriculum area and into all situations that arise within a school year. In the words of St. Paul, our students come to realize that “I can do all things in He who strengthens me.”
This is the power of a Catholic education. Christ is the reason we connect minds, hearts and souls to the Lord so that life has meaning, purpose and an eagerness to go and make a difference in the world.
The world calls for and will continue to call for adults who are well educated. Catholic school students leave rooted in Christ and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. The world will need people of integrity, Christ-centeredness and preparedness.
All of this is our raison d’être in a Catholic school. When our students graduate, they take with them many years of rigorous and relevant academic learning. But the reason that they come to us in the first place, to be rooted in Christ and deepened in the priorities of a faith life, is what will make them and our world a better place.
There is no holding back a person steeped in their faith and strengthened in their innate abilities. May God be praised in all we do to build up the Body of Christ.
Mary Rochford is the superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.