The School Year Begins

The School Year Begins

Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann for the Catholic Standard

Yesterday, on the feast of Saint Augustine, the Church of Washington marked the beginning of the new school year the way we ought to begin all our efforts – by turning to God. Voicing praise and thanksgiving at our annual Opening of Catholic Schools Mass, we also invoked the gift of the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide us as we take up the challenge of stirring into flame the embers of the Gospel message.

This gathering demonstrated an appreciation of the importance of God’s blessings on this undertaking. As I looked around the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and saw that multitude of teachers, administrators, support staff and others who make our educational ministry in this archdiocese possible, I was filled with a spirit of gratitude, inspiration and confidence. At this liturgy, we also voiced a special welcome to our new Secretary for Catholic Education, Dr. Jem Sullivan, who comes to the archdiocese with a wealth of experience and expertise and who I know will see that our young people continue to receive a first-rate Catholic education.

Just outside on the portico of the Basilica, during that historic Canonization Mass, Pope Francis challenged all of us to “keep moving forward!”  This motto of Saint Junípero, which inspired his life and work, should likewise inspire our work in Catholic education as we experience and live out the Good News of Jesus Christ “through giving it away, through giving ourselves away,” as the Holy Father said.

This, in fact, is what Catholic education is all about. “Those who put themselves at the service of the growth of the new generations,” said Pope Francis to a group of teachers earlier this summer, are engaged in “a mission of love, because one cannot teach without loving.”  This mission, I am glad to say, is one that the educators in our local Catholic institutions of learning have fully embraced as they give of themselves to their students, seeking to form the whole person intellectually, spiritually, morally and emotionally. Even families who do not share our Catholic faith send their children to our schools because they know they will receive not only an academically excellent education, but a blessed vision of life in a nurturing environment.

Advancing the common good of education is a common responsibility, including the good of empowering families in choosing the best schools for their children. To help young people benefit from the gift of our schools, which actually enriches our entire society, the Archdiocese provides millions of dollars annually in financial assistance. In addition, public initiatives like the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the Maryland BOOST program, and a proposed federal educational tax credit are proven avenues to needed opportunity and economic justice in education.

As we begin this new academic year, may God bless our young people, their families, and all who are involved in our educational ministry.