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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 10, 2015
By Father Erik Pohlmeier
In many parishes the end of summer is marked with packs of kids in new uniforms and fresh school supplies showing up with a mix of excitement and tears.
The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront of education and parish schools bring a vibrancy to the work of the Gospel. Schools are part of our mission because we understand that real education and growth includes formation in faith and virtue.
In Arkansas Catholic schools you will find posters that say, “Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classes. He is the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students.”
Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. School staff make commitments and sacrifices to be witness of godly truths. Parishioners contribute to the mission in varied ways. This shared mission is a great responsibility and privilege because God entrusts his most precious treasures to us.
This is a beautiful sentiment, but one that should make us pause. It says it on the poster, but is it true? What does it actually mean to say that Christ is the reason for our school? What does it take for this to be lived in truth?
There are obvious ways this is lived. Religion is taught in our classrooms. Prayer marks various moments of our day. Mass and service projects help shape our identity. But there is always the danger that these practices just become part of the schedule and don’t penetrate the hearts of our students. To say that Christ is the reason is to say that we seek Jesus in all the areas of education.
To say that Christ is the reason is to say that we learn to point others to him, to have a comfort with speaking his name, to turn to him first in our need. It is to say that Jesus Christ occupies our minds and hearts, and not only in religion class and at Mass.
Catholic schools have long understood that the effort to educate children is a shared responsibility. Parents are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. School staff make commitments and sacrifices to be witness of godly truths. Parishioners contribute to the mission in varied ways. This shared mission is a great responsibility and privilege because God entrusts his most precious treasures to us.
To accomplish this mission we use words like “excellence” and “character.” We hold up our alumni when they demonstrate these qualities with later successes. We should take pride in those who represent us well. But, success in higher studies and career cannot be the sole measure of success for a Catholic school. The greater question is whether our alumni live with Christ as the still present teacher and inspiration.
As a pastor I am inspired by the legacy of faith that I see in families who continue in Catholic education for generations. I am moved when children look at those pictures on the wall and see their parents and grandparents. I also mourn when I meet someone who says, “I went to your school but don’t go to church anymore.”
The work we do has an effect for a lifetime. At the beginning of a new school year we are filled with energy for all that is possible. It should also be a time to take stock. In all the planning we need to make sure that Christ really is the reason for our schools.