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Column: Catholic schools are first and foremost commitments of faith

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear Friends of Catholic Schools,

Isabelle started kindergarten this year. Belle is like many five-year-olds; however, she is different in one notable way — she happens to be my oldest grandchild. Isabelle’s milestone provides me with yet two more perspectives of the beginning of a new school year — that of grandmother and also mother of a parent sending the first child to school.

Throughout my life, I have had many viewpoints on the first day of school — student, parent, teacher, administrator, parent of a teacher, and now grandparent. What is constant, regardless of the vantage point, is the excitement (and sometimes the anxiety!) with which we approach a new school year.

This excitement and anxiety often takes the form of a thousand different questions. Principals wonder, “Will these new teachers start off well? What will we do if the textbooks arrive late, if the work on the facility is delayed?”

Teachers wonder, “What will the students be like? What will the parents expect?”

Parents wonder, “What class is my child in? Did she get the teacher I wanted for her?”

And if students are like Isabelle, they wonder, “Why must I wear blue shorts and not the ones that are my favorite?”

Sometimes I wonder how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph would begin a new school year if they were alive today. I think they would be as excited as we are, but I do not think they would be as anxious!

Perhaps some of the anxiety of modern parents is due to society’s so-called advances. Generally, we are not used to adapting to our environment, but rather we try to change the environment to meet our needs. When we encounter a new situation, we are not sure what that environment will look like, and we are uncomfortable with the unknown.

One of the challenges for those of us in schools is continually balancing the needs of individuals and the needs of the group. Schools are communities. In schools, students should learn more than individual skills; they also should learn how to function in society, how to adapt.

Catholic schools are more than civic communities. Catholic schools also are, first and foremost, communities of faith in which we are to grow in the knowledge and love of our Lord. When we come together as a community of faith, we evangelize each other. Each of us as individuals should experience a deeper relationship with Jesus as a result of our membership in a school community of faith.

So what do I want for Isabelle as she starts kindergarten? I want her to begin to know Jesus — even while she wears those blue shorts!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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Kathy O'Hara

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