February 2, 2010 // Uncategorized

Bishop Rhoades’ talk at You Can Lend a Hand luncheons

It is a joy to be with you today to celebrate our Catholic schools during this Catholic Schools Week. I am very grateful to the Fitzpatrick Family and Quality Dining for providing this opportunity to celebrate our Catholic schools and to honor our teachers with the Light of Learning Award. I appreciate your extraordinary commitment to Catholic education. Thank you for your generosity to our schools!

I also offer my personal congratulations to our teachers being recognized at this luncheon. Our Catholic school teachers are true partners in the Church’s mission of educating the whole person and of transmitting the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to our children and young people. Our teachers are not merely employees of the Church. They share in the mission of the Church, called by the grace of God to the apostolate of Catholic education. I thank all of our teachers and our principals for their extraordinary commitment to the Church and her mission. It is their generosity, intelligent creativity and pursuit of excellence that make our schools so successful.

Supporting, promoting and strengthening Catholic schools was one of my top priorities as Bishop of Harrisburg. It will be one of my top priorities here in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Why are Catholic schools so important to me and to you?

Many of us received a Catholic school education and know firsthand its great value. I was educated for eight years at St. Mary’s School in Lebanon, Pa., then for four years at Lebanon Catholic High School. I am very grateful for that education — my life as a child and as a teenage youth was enriched by the schooling I received. It was truly an education not only of my mind and body, but also my soul. That is why Catholic education is such a noble enterprise. It is the education of the whole person, an education imparted not only through excellence in teaching, but also through the experience of school as a genuine Christian community of faith, hope and charity.

A Catholic school is not just a physical place. It is a spiritual reality where children’s lives are enriched by hearing and experiencing the fullness of Christ’s message, where they learn to trust all persons as brothers and sisters created by God and redeemed by Christ.

Another reason why I am such a strong proponent of Catholic schools is because they play a vital role in the Church’s mission of evangelization. In 2005, the bishops of the United States reaffirmed our commitment to Catholic elementary and secondary schools. Though we continue to face many challenges in making Catholic schools available, accessible and affordable, we seek ways to meet these challenges because of the critical role Catholic schools fill in the life of the Church. The bishops’ document states that “we must move forward with faith, courage and enthusiasm because Catholic schools are so important to our future.” I certainly believe this is true for our diocese. Catholic schools are of great importance for our future and we must persevere with faith, courage and enthusiasm, even when facing at times difficult challenges.

Our bishops’ statement explains why we value our Catholic elementary and secondary schools. “Catholic schools provide young people with sound Church teaching through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of a school’s life. By equipping our young people with a sound education, rooted in the Gospel message, the Person of Jesus Christ, and rich in the cherished traditions and liturgical practices of our faith, we ensure that they have the foundation to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world.”

I am really looking forward to visiting the schools of our diocese. School visits were one of my most enjoyable activities as bishop of Harrisburg. I know already that the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend has a strong Catholic school system. I thank all of you who so generously support our Catholic schools. I ask you to continue to be generous in your support of our schools. It is only because of the generosity of our people that our Catholic schools are able to exist and to flourish. Your investment in our schools is an investment in the lives of our children and young people and an investment in the Church’s holy mission. Your spiritual and financial support makes you real partners in the Catholic educational enterprise, an enterprise that embraces the formation of the whole person and that imparts a vision, founded in faith and reason, of the world and society, of human life and dignity, a vision for life regarding what is true, beautiful and good. It has as its ultimate goal the same goal as the Church’s whole evangelizing mission: eternal salvation. I can’t think of anything more important in our lives than that goal.

I pray that the Church’s evangelizing mission will flourish in our diocese, especially through good, vibrant, faithful and strong Catholic schools. May we all fulfill the mission entrusted to us by the Lord with faith, courage and enthusiasm! May our Lord bless all of you with His abundant grace!

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