As we celebrate Catholic Education Week in this Year of Faith, we will grow together, all of us — trustees, students, parents, teachers, administrators and support staff — to proclaim that our Catholic school system is grounded in faith, faith in God and in the Gospel values proclaimed by Jesus.
We share a common faith, yet faith is something very personal, a relationship between us and God. One of the more beautiful aspects of our faith is that God has called us each by name. At our baptism, the priest, as he poured the water on our head, said our name and then the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Thus was initiated our very personal relationship with God in faith.
As a Catholic faith community, and as a Catholic educational community, our growing together in faith proclaims to the province of Ontario that our human existence is elevated by our faith, that we do not have here a lasting city, but look for one to come. We are not an odd, antiquated appendage on the educational scene in Ontario, but a vitally integrated and important factor within that scene.
From the founding of publicly funded Catholic education in Ontario in the 1840s to today, our schools have enriched this province and Canada as a whole, shaping graduates with a world view and a life-view that elevates the reality of the human condition beyond the financial, the economic or the political, important as these facets of our lives are and worthy of our attention.
In the frantic and frenetic pace that so often characterizes our lives, Catholic education provides a window through which students may see a vision of the dignity of the human person as a being created by God in God’s own image and destined for another form of greatness.
It is our hope that our graduates will bring to their lives a sense that the Earth is not a “thing” that is to be pillaged for all its wealth, but rather cherished as a gift of the Creator that is treated with respect and care. It is our hope that our graduates will be sensitive to the reality that the Earth’s resources are not equitably distributed. It is our hope that our graduates are sensitized to the reality that in many parts of our world children go to sleep hungry. It is our hope that our graduates are aware that the wonderful advantages of modern technology do not replace the innate dignity and worth of the individual person regardless of race, colour, ability or religion.
Ontario’s other excellent public school system prepares its graduates to be caring contributors to the well-being of our country, and of the world we share. To that, Catholic education brings the added dynamic of our faith. Our firm belief in a God that created us and redeemed us, our religious perspective, adds a spiritual directive to our outlook on life, and infuses our Catholic school curriculum.
Catholic Education Week is an ideal opportunity for all who are involved in publicly funded Catholic education — home, parish, school — to come together and do some growing together in faith. The Catholic communities of school and parish stand as a sign of faith and hope to others.
If at times we feel disheartened or helpless in front of a disinterested and sometimes hostile world, perhaps we should remember the heartfelt prayer of the disciples — “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17: 5).
Leaders in our Catholic school communities bear a responsibility for the growing together in faith of that community. That is not an easy task, or one with which lay people may have a high comfort level.
But in many ways we can demonstrate to our communities that our own growth in faith is important to us and that growing together in faith is a critically important factor of our leadership. What we do by example may have greater impact than what we say.
(Martin is Director of Catholic Education for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.)