Catholic education for all ages remains an immeasurable gift

Last Sunday, Catholic Schools Week began in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Activities in most schools included a show of appreciation for Catholic school teachers, those dedicated professionals who pass on the truths of Catholic teaching in the hard work of day-to-day instruction.

On that day another group of teachers received thanks as well. Known collectively as catechists, the directors of religious education, volunteer teachers in parish religious education programs and leaders of youth groups and adult formation programs in parishes felt the gratitude of their pastors and fellow parishioners. Some were thanked at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul by Cardinal Justin Rigali during a Mass he celebrated marking a major feast in this year of St. Paul.

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul suggests a Pauline course of action for every Catholic. First, offer a warm greeting to Catholic educators for the sacrifices they make and commitment they show. Next, become a collaborator with all teachers of the Christian faith in one of these ways:

If time allows, volunteer to help a teacher in the classroom of your parish or regional Catholic school. Lend your professional skills to the school or life experience to students as a mentor, perhaps in an after-school club. Become a coach for a CYO team, lead a youth choir, or direct an art project for young people in the parish. Support your parish’s or cluster’s youth group or adult faith formation program, or start a group with other adults. Offer to help train lectors, cantors and altar servers for parish liturgies.

Catholic schools do heroic work in educating the whole child, body, mind and spirit. Parish religious education programs likewise perform the invaluable service of preparing children to receive the sacraments. Youth groups, young adult clubs and adult religious education programs including Bible study groups and the RCIA process all reflect various ways in which the parish and the Church at large educate Catholics of every age.

All of it concerns Catholic catechesis, which not only educates but especially forms people in the Catholic faith. Through these heroic efforts, all are invited to a deeper encounter with Christ in order to form us as His disciples. We owe it to ourselves, and to our brothers and sisters in the world, to know Christ more deeply and reflect Him more clearly through what we know and what we believe.

The gift of Catholic education is not only immeasurable, but needed never more than now.