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Message from the Superintendent: Catholic Schools & What We Stand For

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As superintendent, the favorite part of my job is visiting our Catholic schools. I strive to take one day per week to simply walk the halls of our schools, interact with students and teachers, and bear witness to the undeniable impact of a Catholic education.

The archdiocese comprises 113 Catholic schools spread out over 19 counties. Our schools serve students of an enormous diversity of races, economic backgrounds, and religions. Yet as I visit each school, I am struck not by the differences between our schools, but the similarities. No matter where a school is located or what population it serves, each of our schools is a shining example of the educational ministry of Jesus Christ in action.

As popularized by the media, there is much coverage nowadays of what the Catholic Church is against. In my opinion, there is not nearly enough conversation about what our church stands for. Indeed, as a vital ministry of the church, Catholic schools exemplify what it means to be Catholic, what is means to serve a troubled world.

In this spirit, I would like to mention a few principles at the heart of a Catholic school education. These principles are not meant to be exhaustive. However, they do encompass who we are, and reflect some of the research we conducted when we put together “Lighting the Way: A Vision for Catholic Schools” two years ago.

Make no mistake: The key to the success of our Catholic schools is our teachers, those men and women who have dedicated their lives to our schools. Our teachers truly are our “secret weapon.” Our success can be directly attributed to the many ways they share their gifts with the students they serve. No matter their own background, our teachers always impress me with how they embrace our Catholic mission.

So what do Catholic schools stand for?

We stand for spiritual growth. Our schools provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed every day and in every subject. No matter the faith of the students (or even some of the teachers), a Catholic education lives and breathes the faith, and this faith is modeled and celebrated constantly. This faith is present through our worship, study, and service to those around us.

We stand for academic excellence. Our schools have a proud and well-deserved reputation for fostering dynamic, innovative, and rigorous academic instruction that prepares our students for the challenges that lie ahead. It is our teachers who are fundamental in providing this education, as they encourage the growth of every student, no matter their background or learning style.

We stand for vibrant communities. Our schools welcome students and families of all backgrounds, and expose them to communities of validation and compassion.  Our school communities extend far beyond the four walls of the building, as we form partnerships with parishes, neighborhoods, social agencies, and the wider church.

We stand for family partnerships. Our schools strive to empower parents and guardians as the primary educators of their children. Working in relationships of mutual trust and transparency, we partner with families to nurture each child to reach his or her greatest potential.

We stand for the education of the whole person. Each student has his or her own calling from God, and it is our responsibility to help him or her discern their unique calling. Vital to this discernment is the exposure to a variety of programs, subjects, and settings that make our students well-rounded individuals ready to serve God and others.

We stand for global awareness. Our schools are an important ministry of the international Catholic Church. As such, we foster an awareness of the wider needs of humanity, and challenge our students to know and understand their brothers and sisters around the world.

We stand for stewardship of God’s educational ministry. We teach our students to use their gifts wisely, prudently, and in the interests of advancing the good of those around them. These practices are reflective in our own efforts to use church resources to provide a vibrant future for our schools.

These are our core principles, and they form our commitment to the families we serve. When new parents step into a Catholic school, they should immediately feel that school’s warmth, vibrancy, and faith. They should be affirmed that their child would be embraced and well served. They should know that they would see the love of Christ in action in the classrooms, hallways, and athletics fields of the school.

They should know what it means to be Catholic.

Jim Rigg is the superintendent of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Catholic schools.

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph. 

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