By Mary Rochford
The celebration of Catholic Schools Week from Jan. 25-31, affords us the opportunity to thank the many generous and committed inspaniduals who have accepted responsibility for their part in history continuing the rich legacy of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia!
To Cardinal Rigali, Bishop McFadden, Bishop Maginnis, Bishop Cistone, Bishop Thomas, pastors, parishioners, school administrators, teachers, staff members, parents and guardians, the staff in the Office of Catholic Education offers our thanks to you as well as the enduring hope that you will see us through as, together, we add our piece to the collective history of such a vital ministry in the Catholic Church.
To think that St. John Neumann did not have occasions of struggle, challenge, frustration and “dark moments” in establishing schools and then helping the schools to flourish would be to foolishly believe worthwhile and life-giving ministries simply evolve and remain forever unchallenged. The difficulties in our time are different than they were in 1852 yet the mission remains the same – to educate our children in the Catholic faith and to lead them to Christ.
We are challenged at this time in our history. The cost of education is on the rise while the financial picture of our country is at one of its low points. There is a rather “simple” solution to our dilemma … we need the assistance of many!
As St. John Neumann established Catholic schools for the specific purpose of educating the Catholic children in their faith, he had the support of the people of the parishes in both the building of churches and the establishment of schools. Christ was central to the people “in the seats” and those people were faithfully in the Church every week. Equally faithful were the children in the seats of the classrooms learning how to become strong in the faith and enduring in its practice. The learning was seamless … educated in the faith for the purpose of living the faith.
We must rise up in this 21st century to do the same for our children, to ensure their lives are formed with Christ as the center from which all good will flow for now, for the future and for eternity.
Echoing the words of St. John Neumann, 1852 and 2009 seem not so far apart: “Since every man of whatever race is endowed with the dignity of a person, he has an inalienable right to an education corresponding to his proper destiny and suited to his native talents, his cultural background, and his ancestral heritage. At the same time, this education should pave the way to brotherly association with other peoples, so that genuine unity and peace on earth may be promoted. For a true education aims at the formation of the human person with respect to the good of those societies of which, as a man, he is a member, and in whose responsibilities, as an adult, he will share.”
The hope is all Catholic people in the Archdiocese desire to see the longevity of Catholic schools continuing into a very distant future; perhaps not in the exact manner of 1852 but certainly in an even more crucial way in 2009!
“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they held everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all,” wrote St. John. “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”
We cannot be spanided on this issue of providing our children with one of life’s great blessings, a Catholic education five days a week seven hours a day, intending to impact a lifetime. This is our vision. We must realize we are a people living the Paschal mystery. There is life (1852), there is some death (2009), yet there is resurrection (the years ahead) as we join our resources together.
May God be praised in all we do! Long live Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia! We are never defeated as we live along each day in hope and in the footsteps of those who have gone before us in faith. We are more powerful together than we will ever be alone.
Mary Rochford is the superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.