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Catholic Schools: Communities of faith, knowledge and service

I love our Catholic Schools.  They make me very proud of this archdiocese.   Every year, I look forward to the opportunity to visit each of our schools.  In this issue of the Sooner Catholic, we want to share some of the reasons why we are so proud of our schools.  In anticipation of Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26 through Feb. 1), you will find a special insert in the following pages celebrating our Catholic schools as communities of faith, knowledge and service.  This annual observance provides an opportunity to affirm, to promote and to renew our commitment to the important mission of Catholic education.

The Church in the United States is blessed with the strongest networks of Catholic schools anywhere in the world.  In addition to the many fine schools founded and staffed by religious congregations, our system of parish schools in archdioceses and dioceses across the country is without equal. 

Catholic schools are very much a part of the unique history of the Church in the United States.   Significantly, the first American-born saint, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, established the first parish school in the United States.   It was Saint John Neumann, the first American bishop to be canonized, who established the first diocesan school system and laid the foundation for a legacy of Catholic education that endures to our day.

The strength of our Catholic schools is a testimony to our ancestors’ determination and commitment to hand on their Catholic faith.  The cultural climate of those times was often hostile to Catholics, especially immigrant Catholics.  They recognized that, in addition to providing an excellent education for their children, Catholic schools also provided a way for them to transmit their most important values, customs and beliefs to the next generation.  Then and now, the first and foremost mission of Catholic schools is the transmission of faith through an integrated education and formation of the whole person.  Catholic schools exist to form disciples of Jesus Christ who are prepared live their faith and fulfill their mission in service to Church, family and society.  Good Catholics make good citizens.  It has always been so.  Catholic schools are unsurpassed as communities of faith, knowledge and service to others. 

It has never been easy to maintain our Catholic schools.  They have flourished because of the shared commitment of parents, religious congregations of women and men and, of course, parish priests and parishioners.  In later years dedicated lay faculty and staff have contributed their own tremendous energy and talents.  All shared the conviction that Catholic schools are worth the sacrifice.  They are a good investment.  Catholic education offers an irreplaceable service to parents in providing for the education, especially the religious education, of their children. 

Directly or indirectly, all of us benefit from Catholic schools.  In order to guarantee that Catholic education is available in our archdiocese for future generations we have to accept our shared responsibility for preserving and strengthening the legacy which we have received from those who came before us.  We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices of others.  And we have to be mindful of those who will come after us. 

Parents of today’s Catholic school children cannot be left to shoulder the full cost of Catholic education alone.  For most families it would be simply out of reach.  Catholic schools cannot be only for the privileged few who can afford them.  Our Catholic schools have flourished because Catholics have recognized and accepted that what are required are a shared commitment and a shared sacrifice.   The future depends on our ability to sustain this spirit of stewardship.

If we can match the creativity and stewardship that characterized our forebears’ dedication and support of Catholic schools, then the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is truly bright.  It is our turn now.