By Thomas Chadzutko, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools
When I told people I was going to Rome, the first thing they told me was to enjoy the sights and the food. Needless to say that sounded great, but the reason for my trip was to attend the World Congress on Catholic Education with the theme: Educating Today and Tomorrow. I was joined by Anthony Biscione, senior deputy superintendent for Catholic schools.
During the five days of dialogue and conversation with representatives from around the world, we were asked to reflect upon: Catholic Identity and Mission in Parish Schools and Academies, particularly looking at the strengths and challenges facing today’s education leaders.
I was able to focus on the important role that our parish schools and academies play in the mission of the Church. They are places where students learn to live their lives through a partnership with administration, faculty, staff and parents. We discussed the quest for academic excellence within a value-centered learning environment with respect for all cultures. Finally, we appreciated the role our Catholic faith plays in the lives of all who are part of the parish school/academy community.
The most important part of the congress was hearing from Pope Francis. When he entered Pope Paul VI Hall, the auditorium erupted with great enthusiasm. Just to know that you were in the same room with Pope Francis and then to see his loving approach to everyone was a great joy. As we saw during his trip to New York, his actions most definitely show us how to live the Gospel message.
Pope Francis began by saying: “Catholic education is Love – it is an issue of the heart which involves knowledge and relationship. Second, Catholic education is Dialogue – it is an open house, a place that has Christ as its center. Third, Catholic education is Service – offered in the search for truth, beauty, and what is right and good.”
In Brooklyn and Queens, parish schools and academies through the leadership of our parish priests and principals help build a faith community of care for each individual. Through dialogue, our faculty and staff work in partnership with the parents of the children entrusted to us to ensure that these students will become successful leaders of tomorrow. Through service to the community, our students participate in the many projects that help those in need and through other works of mercy, provide for an understanding of the values and virtues found in the Gospel message. In our academies, our boards of directors provide an opportunity of service in the governance of education through the members’ time, talent and expertise. We take the message of Pope Francis seriously and work tirelessly to ensure that Catholic schools will be with us for years to come.
The Congress offered a formal challenge: “Let us keep the conversation alive to sustain Catholic schools so that they will remain true to their mission, a mission in which we live the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Let us ensure that our Catholic schools promote the goodness of Creation in the stewardship of what St. Francis called our Sister Earth. In essence, may our Catholic schools become witnesses of Charity and Mercy.”
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, may our parish schools and academies be Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.