My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 2020, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, called the faithful to engage in “The Year of Joseph.” During “The Year of Joseph,” we remember the humble carpenter who was pivotal in our salvation. We are called to be inspired by his challenges and the manner in which he worked, without recognition but driven by his faith in God. As Pope Francis describes in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde, (With A Father’s Heart), “Each of us can discover in Joseph — the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence — an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
The past year has been marked by significant trials, many of which we could have never imagined or prepared for. In difficult times, it is instinctive to remain steadfast and attempt to maintain our circumstances rather than pushing forward and making changes.
The words of Pope Francis, however, challenge us to seek the guidance of Joseph and our Heavenly Father: “God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.” The words of Pope Francis have inspired the Diocese of Brooklyn to engage in A Year of Renewal for Catholic Education. This renewal seeks to strengthen our faith community through our most important asset, our children.
Each goal in A Year of Renewal for Catholic Education flows from the most important aspect of Catholic education: helping children to know and love Jesus. Children are the present and the future of Catholicism. Each child who experiences Jesus in our Catholic Academies, Parish Schools, or Religious Education programs is more likely to carry their faith into adulthood and to guide their own children to the faith. By strengthening these entities, we are ensuring a strong future for Catholicism and the continued sharing of the Word of God.
The Renewal for Catholic Education will seek to strengthen specific areas of Catholic education, with the core focus being the development of vibrant and rigorous religious education in Catholic Academies and Parish Schools as well as Religious Education programs. The Renewal will also address enrollment, academic excellence, financial viability, and governance. Each of these themes will include action steps taken within parishes, Catholic Academies, and Parish Schools, as well as our religious education programs.
In our efforts to evangelize all children, we must also look to the original mission of Catholic education. Catholic education began as a means to provide for the poor, the underserved, and the immigrant populations. This mission has continued throughout the development of Catholic education. As such, it is our continued mission to offer Catholic education to all children, especially those who are often overlooked in our society.
Our Holy Father shares with us that “Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception.” It is thus our purpose within our renewal, to seek additional opportunities to welcome underserved populations into our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools.
Pope Francis inspires us through his leadership and in his belief that, “in the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.” We are blessed to be a community of the faithful. You each possess resources, be it monetary support, the ability to volunteer, or the ability to pray for our renewal. Each of these resources is significant in our journey to renew Catholic Education. What is most important to our efforts is the support of all the members of our Diocese.
Pope Francis provides us the understanding “that no one is saved alone … how many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all.” We cannot complete this journey alone. We put out into the deep together. As the year progresses and the action steps inspired by A Renewal for Catholic Education commence, I pray that you will walk this journey with us as brothers and sisters united in a common goal for evangelization. Together, we can build a strong future for our Church and faith community.