For many high school seniors with dreams of going to college, these past few weeks have been very busy. High school transcripts have been collected, letters of recommendation have been requested, essays have been drafted and financial aid papers have been reviewed, all in anticipation of colleges’ mid-November early application deadlines. Completion of this long to-do list in some sense marks the start of something new: a time to prepare for and reflect on dreams for higher education and professional development.
Good education and a rich variety of educational opportunities are the hallmark of a strong community and in the case of Catholic education, a vibrant Church. The Catholic Church has a well-earned reputation for teaching. The secular university system, as we know it today, is actually a product of the medieval Church, which established its schools to train theologians and clergy. In fact, it was the Catholic Church that opened up the possibility of education to all people; previously, scholarship had been the exclusive domain of the aristocracy.
It is a blessing, then, to be Catholic and American, for our country, like our Church, prizes education. In America, education is associated with a greater freedom of opportunity. Indeed, in the Land of the Free – where we place a premium on hard work, determination, and the pursuit of knowledge – we expect education to be a part of almost any success story.
Tomorrow, voters will have a chance to increase educational opportunities for a particular group of students called “Dreamers.” Dreamers are children who are not citizens of the United States but have completed all or a significant portion of their education in American schools. There is a proposed law on the ballot in Maryland which is supported by the Maryland Catholic Conference and needs careful consideration. The law, called “The Dream Act,” would allow Maryland students whose families pay Maryland taxes and who graduated from Maryland high schools to pay in-state college tuition, regardless of immigration status.
The Church’s concern for the immigrant is rooted in many principles of her social teaching, including the dignity of the human person, the option for the poor and vulnerable, our call to living in solidarity with one another, and the importance of developing life-sustaining community. As our country struggles to reform its immigration policy to best serve our people and communities, this law serves to open a pathway to a brighter future for a group of young people whose dream is to be full and active participants in our communities and work forces.
My prayers will be joined to the prayers of our parents and our educators that this school year may be filled with God’s blessing and bear good fruit in the lives of all of our students.