When I was a kid, the final week of each summer vacation felt like the saddest thing. In June, the summer looked like an eternity of freedom, but now you were facing again the new school year, the classes and homework. Of course, there was also the excitement of seeing your school friends again and sharing the stories of the summer.
After finishing college or post-graduate studies, most young people assume school days and the sadness of the end of summer are gone for good. But then you have kids and the same cycle starts again.
For parents, the end of summer means going back to the school year routines — getting the kids out of bed, fixing breakfast and lunch, dropping off the kids in the morning, helping them with homework. For us, parents, vacation is also over.
Here at The Tablet, part of the end of August ritual is the Back to School section you will find this week. Catholic schools and academies in our diocese educate nearly 45,000 students in Brooklyn and Queens. Parents and students will find useful information in the special section, but it should serve as a reminder of the importance of Catholic education not just for them, but for all our readers.
The promotion of Catholic education should be a priority for all Catholics. It is not just the bishop, or the diocese or the parishes who should care about Catholic education —it should be a priority for the whole Church.
When I read the obituaries we publish almost every week, there are two details that always catch my attention. The first one is the extraordinary lives and education of so many women religious that dedicated their entire lives to Catholic education.
It is moving and humbling to read the brief obituary and realize that we are trying to summarize in five or six paragraphs a whole life dedicated to the service of others and in many cases to the Catholic education of hundreds and hundreds of children.
In the obituaries of priests, women and men religious or notable laypeople, there is another telling detail — the vast majority of them went to Catholic school. Having grown up in a country without Catholic or any other private school, I am particularly touched by that fact that I find in so many Tablet obituaries.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of Catholic education for the future of the Catholic community at large. Most of the consecrated and lay leaders of the Catholic community today went to Catholic schools. It is not a coincidence — the values and the faith that their parents and teachers instilled in them were crucial for choices they made later in life, for the values they put into practice.
Those Christian values are also taught to thousands of children that won’t be priests or women religious nor even lay leaders in their Catholic communities. But they will be parents who will be responsible for the formation of the future generation. The importance of a Catholic education goes also beyond the Catholic community.
Many of the children attending our schools today come from other faiths. But the values that they learn will accompany them even if they never become Catholic or Christian. For many generations now, Catholic schools have been educating children and young men and women to be agents of good in our society.
That’s why when a Catholic school closes, it is always one of the saddest news we have to cover for The Tablet. We know that our community and our society are losing something invaluable. For that reason alone, Catholic education should be a priority for every Catholic when choosing their children’s schools, praying or offering financial support to the Church.