by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past Saturday, the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) at its annual Gaudeamus gala honored our Catholic school teachers for their dedication in helping their students develop fully their God-given talents and abilities.
Even more, our Catholic school teachers are to be saluted for their commitment and determination to be witnesses to their students of living our Catholic faith.
Our Catholic schools not only teach their students about Jesus, but, more importantly, they create an environment where our young people have the opportunity to encounter the living Jesus through the sacraments and prayer. Our teachers strive to provide a daily witness of the joy of the Gospel.
Years ago, McDonald’s boasted that their Big Mac’s delicious taste was a result of their secret sauce. One of their competitors mocked the fast food giant by suggesting the secret sauce was nothing more than Thousand Island salad dressing. The secret sauce for the excellence of our Catholic schools is the zeal, competence and dedication of our teachers.
This was illustrated very powerfully and beautifully this past year. It was the dedication of our Catholic school teachers that made it possible for the vast majority of our schools to provide an in-person classroom experience when so many other schools were only providing virtual learning. Though it was much more labor-intensive, most of our Catholic schools provided in-person learning, while at the same time offering virtual classes for families that preferred that option.
One of the fruits of the generosity and hard work of our teachers was a 700 student enrollment increase for the current school year. Our teachers also inspired record-setting generosity from our Catholic Education Foundation benefactors. Gaudeamus raised this year more than $2.4 million. All of the proceeds from Gaudeamus will be used to provide scholarships for our CEF schools, who serve a high percentage of students from families whose total income is below the poverty level.
I am very grateful for the generosity of the donors to the Catholic Education Foundation for removing financial barriers for families who desire a Catholic education for their children. While every family is required to make a financial sacrifice for their children to attend one of our Catholic schools, I am determined to ensure that our Catholic schools are financially accessible to all families.
Sadly, in recent weeks, in some parts of the country we have seen parents with children in public schools criticized for their objections to some of the ideologies to which their children are being subjected. It has been distressing to hear some politicians, as well as some public school board members, disparage the rights of parents to object to the extreme ideologies that are being imposed on their children.
Unfortunately, the secular model for education is overly focused on preparing students to do well on standardized tests and to prepare young people for successful careers. Of course, we want our Catholic school students to be well-prepared to enter college and equipped to be able to provide for themselves and their families.
Yet, our Catholic schools strive to do so much more. We want our students to be exposed to truth, beauty and goodness. We want to spark within our students wonder at the complexity and order in the natural world, as well as awe for the God who created the cosmos.
We want our young people to know their dignity as one created in the divine image, as well as their incredible worth that was revealed by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. We want them to understand that they are beloved sons and daughters of the Creator of the cosmos who desires to have a friendship with them.
If you were not able to attend Gaudeamus but want to contribute to scholarships for our Catholic schools, please Google the Catholic Education Foundation website. If you know a Catholic school teacher, please thank them for their amazing service to their students and families. Please communicate to them that they are truly heroes and heroines. They are the secret sauce of Catholic education.