Note: This month’s message is the third of five reflections regarding the five marks of a Catholic school as outlined by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB in his book entitled The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools.
III: “Animated by Communion and Community”
Dr. Timothy Cook, Professor of Education at Creighton University and scholar of Catholic school identity, stated in a 2011 journal article that “relationships are at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic school”. Those words rang true centuries ago when the women and men religious who endured great peril and sacrifice established Catholic education in the State of New Hampshire. And, those words ring true today as our 26 Catholic schools remain sanctuaries for our students to encounter the open heart of Christ within the context of their relationships with each other, with their teachers, and with creation. Indeed, Catholic education is a communal effort, one inspired by the Holy Spirit and enlivened by our rich educational tradition.
When I speak to alumnae who visit our Catholic schools, I often hear them explain that while the school may have changed over the years, it never loses that Catholic school feel. What an affirmation of the unique community that they experienced years ago and that they recognize in our schools today. And yes, a Catholic school building is unique, rich with symbolism, artifacts, and powerful reminders of our faith. All of this is important, but it is about more than that. Our Catholic schools are about encounter. They are about how we experience Christ’s love within the context of our relationships. That is what makes a Catholic school special and unique. That is the “feel” that anyone who is connected to Catholic education experiences when they spend some time in a Catholic school community.
Catholic education is not only about building a faith-filled community within the schoolhouse walls; it is also about connecting with the community outside of the school. In this sense, Catholic schools not only enrich students’ lives, they enrich the greater community as well. Our Catholic school students serve their communities in countless ways – not merely out of good will or because it looks good on a college application – but because we have a moral imperative to set the world aflame with God’s love. And when all of these dimensions of the community are clicking, we see the miracle of our students’ transformation – mind, body, and spirit – into the persons that God intended them to be.
So, as we begin the month of February, let us acknowledge the fact that we are connected, in a special way, to one of the most important evangelizing projects of the Catholic Church. Let us be thankful for the gift of Catholic school communities for our students, and let us celebrate our students’ and teachers’ ongoing efforts to build the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Dr. Ron Fussell
Associate Superintendent of Schools
Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Ron Fussell
Diocese of Manchester
The Catholic Church in New Hampshire
153 Ash Street, Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310
Fax: (603) 669-0377
© Diocese of Manchester