Column: Catholic schools educate more than the mind

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.
Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools, “

Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It.” I am so pleased that Catholic schools in the archdiocese will be participating in the upcoming faith initiative of the archdiocese. It is very gratifying to see the schools join together and, among other activities, use the same themes — Love It, Learn It, Live It — to proclaim our core mission and purpose.

We are off to a great start this school year! Here are some highlights:

• While we do not have the final numbers yet, it appears that enrollment is good, with many schools reporting an increase in students.

• We are continuing the robust faith formation program for Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese. Teachers evaluate this program each year, and it consistently receives high praise from them.

• Students are benefiting from the professional development opportunities provided to teachers, as teachers enhance classroom instruction by incorporating research-based best practices.

• School leaders are directing the creation of strategic and development plans that will help sustain our Catholic schools into the future.

• School families are receiving tuition assistance in record numbers so that Catholic schools can remain accessible to them.

We have been blessed by the Holy Spirit’s guidance so that we do, in fact, have schools that are joyfully Catholic, diligently achieving, intentionally self-giving, providently managed, and forwardly thinking.

As uplifted as I am by all of this, though, what gave me the greatest cause for joy was an email I received on the first day of school at one of our schools. Attached to the email was a photograph of two kindergartners wearing their brand new plaid jumpers. These two little girls were smiling from ear to ear. As I looked at the picture, I found myself marveling at how a plaid jumper (or a white polo shirt and khaki pants) can make a five-year-old appear so grown up almost overnight.

Because I am writing this on the feast of St. Bartholomew, the apostle, I am reminded of my own Catholic elementary school experience at St. Bartholomew School in Pittsburgh. What strikes me, though, is that all of my school memories are related to our faith — praying the rosary, preparing to receive the sacraments, participating in the celebration of the Eucharist, praying the Stations of the Cross, adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Apparently I learned to read, write, and calculate, but what I remember most is experiencing Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother.

That is what we want for all students in Catholic schools. I especially want it for those two kindergartners whose picture I was emailed — my granddaughters!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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