WINDSOR TERRACE — Inspired by Pope Francis, who recently declared 2021 as the “Year of Joseph” in his apostolic letter “Patris corde,” the Diocese of Brooklyn will be engaging in a “Year of Renewal for Catholic Education.” The overarching goal of the campaign is to strengthen the understanding that Catholic education is evangelization.
“The words of the Holy Father are guiding us forward to not only continue the mission of Catholic education but to improve upon it,” the message from the Diocese of Brooklyn stated. “The ‘Year of Renewal’ begins with the core of the mission of Catholic education — to form children in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ as celebrated in the Catholic Church.”
Priests across the diocese read the message during their homilies on Jan. 3, the Solemnity of the Epiphany. They reiterated how Jesus constantly sought children to share His message with and through His example.
“We understand that we too are called to share His message through the new evangelization,” the message said. “The ‘Year of Renewal’ is an Epiphany for our faith community, an opportunity to manifest the knowledge and truth of Jesus to all.”
“By investing in our children, we are investing in the future of the Church.”
Using many of the same principles that the Holy Father outlined in “Patris corde,” the diocese’s focus areas include manifesting Catholic culture, promoting and retaining enrollment, and achieving academic excellence. Each of these themes will include action steps taken within parishes, Catholic academies, parish schools, and religious education programs over the next five years. For example, the diocese intends to develop adult catechesis programs for schools’ administration, faculty, and staff, and to invite students to participate in weekend Masses (while adhering to all health and safety protocols).
Multiple key figures within the diocese are working together and speaking to the value of Catholic education, according to Vicar for Catholic Schools Msgr. David Cassato. After preaching at the pulpit on Jan. 3, Msgr. Cassato said he received a call the following day from parents who were interested in enrolling their children at St. Athanasius Catholic Academy (Bensonhurst).
“The key for the future is building a stronger faith for our young people,” he said. “It’s a great blessing to see kids in the schoolyard and to continue doing outreach to all ethnic groups and immigrants as we welcome them into our schools. Our schools are great and are a hidden gem in this big city.”
Since Sept. 9, children across the diocese have been learning their lessons in-person or through a hybrid learning model. The diocese continues to emphasize how consistent its schools have been while remaining physically open and how seriously faculty, staff, and students have been taking COVID-19 protocols inside and outside the classroom.
Father Joseph Gibino, vicar for Evangelization and Catechesis in the Diocese of Brooklyn, noted, however, that Catholic education goes beyond the realm of academia.
“Education isn’t just in the classroom or in the religious education room. It’s in the family, too,” Father Gibino explained, mentioning that the “Year of Renewal” provides an opportunity to highlight parents’ roles as primary witnesses of the faith and educators in everyday life.
“This is just the beginning, and it’s meant to be a spark of awareness that will grow, year after year.”
Vicar for Development Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello added, “That means we’re going to make sure we continue to show parishioners we are truly committed — saying ‘This is our plan’ and that we need their help to make this work.”
The diocese also reported having a successful Advent season after hosting virtual prayer gatherings, presentations, and a Holy Hour with the rosary in multiple languages. Because this year’s Advent Reflection accumulated 900 views from 83 countries, the diocese believes it’s a positive sign of what’s to come this Lenten season.
“2020 has helped us realize that our faith has been with us — guiding us and getting us through each day, and helping us do what needs to be done to help others,” said Joan McMaster, associate superintendent for Principal and Teacher Personnel in the Diocese of Brooklyn. “I think this is an amazing plan and will show people that we are here, alive and well, and growing as our mission continues.”
In the same vein, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Chadzutko said, “We haven’t seen collaboration, communication, and renewal together at this higher level. Everybody’s looking to work for the common good of Catholic education in the diocese.”
More “Year of Renewal” information will be released during Catholic Schools Week, scheduled to take place February 7 to 12 this year. The week will provide opportunities for interested families to learn more about the diocese’s 69 parish schools and Catholic academies and their various programs, as well as enrollment information for the 2021-2022 school year.