Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B
Catholic Schools Week
|The theme this year for Catholic Schools Week in our nations is: “Learn, Serve, Lead and Succeed.”To our Saint Joseph School families, dedicated teachers, staff and volunteers – and those of our area Catholic high schools – happy Catholic Schools Week!
To all of you, our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Family members – thank you for your commitment to and support of Catholic education!
This Sunday from 12:00 Noon until 1:30 PM, Saint Joseph School – under the leadership of our principal, Mrs. Amy Makruski – will be welcoming you to an Open House. There will be tours to showcase what our gem-of-a-school has to offer. Whether or not you have school-age children, please come and see. If you have children in another school, we would love to welcome you here. If you would like to return to Saint Joseph School, we would love to talk with you!
Today’s Gospel opens with these words: “Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.” Notice that this is Mark 1: 21. Even before all of the miracle accounts, this Gospel begins with Jesus teaching.
But then the class gets lively. “In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit. He cried out, ‘I know who you are: the Holy One of God!’” The unclean spirit was the only one there who really knew who Jesus was. And so Jesus says, “Quiet! Come out of him!” And the spirit left. “All were amazed… A new teaching with authority.”
Jesus taught. We continue to teach the message of Jesus. And a major way that we do this is through our Catholic schools.
More than ever I am convinced of the irreplaceable value of our Catholic schools. From a purely academic point of view, they “educate with excellence.”
Here at Saint Joseph School, we are looking forward to being designated by the State of Ohio this spring as a “STEM School.” STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” preparing our students for the jobs and opportunities that will be available to them in this 21st century – and all of this within a Catholic atmosphere.
This “Catholic atmosphere” is an atmosphere of faith: with Scripture, prayer, sacraments, discipline, respect, order and virtue, and with the acknowledged presence of Jesus in every subject and activity.
These two values of our Catholic schools – academic excellence and a faith-filled atmosphere – offer tremendous benefits not only to our Church but also to our communities and our society as well.
I am grateful that our Saint Joseph Parish has a Catholic day school here on its campus and that it is wide-open to be shared with our Nativity Parish families.
As the pastor of Saint Joseph Parish and now as the pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, I want you all to know from me that Saint Joseph School is here to serve both of our parishes and the families of both of our parishes. People of Saint Joseph Parish and people of Nativity Parish can now both say, “Saint Joseph School is our school.”
Now, believe me, as a pastor, I know our schools involve challenges. Catholic schools require hard work and sacrifice – and can cause headaches and even heartburn!
But, the bottom line is: they are well worth it.
The wider community in our nation needs no convincing of the tremendous value of Catholic schools. They are people in many part of the United States today that truly wish that they had access to a Catholic school. And we have that treasure right here.
We have an impressive array of business, civic and philanthropic leaders in our nation – Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian, believer and non-believer – who are passionately committed to our Catholic schools.
But I sometimes fear a loss of nerve within our Catholic community!
I fear an attitude that the support of our Catholic schools should be totally the responsibility of parents who have children in them. I also fear an attitude that a parish without a school has no obligation at all to support other Catholic schools where their young may attend.
But as our Catholic tradition reminds us, the support of our Catholic schools is a duty of the entire Church. For what did Jesus command us to do, just before He ascended into heaven? Jesus told us to “Go and make disciples.” That is our mission as His Church. And helping our young people be formed as Jesus’ disciples is what we do in our Catholic schools.
I also fear a subtle buy-in to what Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, has called “the Catholic school hospice mentality.” Some people now sigh and say, “Well, we sure love our Catholic schools, and they have served us well, but, sadly, their day is over. So, the best we can do is to make their passing comfortable while they slowly pass into grateful memory.”
And to this I say, “For heaven’s sake!” We need to move from hospice to hope.
What can we do? We can do what those before us have done. We renew our passion, face reality and creatively plan for the future. We trust God, whose work we share in – as we continue to teach as Jesus taught – and we step out boldly and confidently.
So, although I have enumerated some fears, I am not afraid. (Catholic schools have always faced challenges throughout their history.) So what can we do?
*We can re-claim our communal responsibility to support our Catholic schools. And we do this not only with money. We also need to support our Catholic schools by enrolling our children in them.
*We can move from hospice to hope, putting an end to the assumption that our Catholic schools are slowly dying, and that it is just a matter of time.
*We can stop charging unfairly that the support of our schools unduly chokes other parish programs. Or, the opposite: we can stop expecting all or most of parish income to go to the school.
*And we can get real, admitting that we have some challenges before us. For instance, having enough students is essential to having a school. And, believing that it is all worth it, we can make the decisions that are necessary to keep the treasure of our Catholic schools available and affordable for all who would like to attend them.
As Bishop Roger Foys of Covington, Kentucky put it: “While there may be alternatives to Catholic education, there are no substitutes.” I couldn’t say it any better.
I am grateful to all of you – and to all of those fine people who have gone before us – that we have our beloved Saint Joseph School here for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families. Thank you. God bless you. And a happy Catholic Schools Week, everyone!