Column: Catholic schools encourage kids to meet the Lord firsthand

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

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

Let the children come to me.” (Mt 19:14) What a fitting Gospel reading for August as we prepared for the opening of Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese! After all, the primary purpose of our schools is to help parents help their children come to know and love Jesus on a personal level.

We do this in many ways. But, first and foremost, we ask for God’s help. As I write this, approximately 1,200 faculty and staff members in Catholic schools are participating in the first sessions of their ongoing formation programs. In these sessions, teachers have the opportunity to learn more about the faith and to pray together as a community of faith. We are so blessed to be able to offer this to our teachers, because it not only benefits them but also their students. I am sure you can remember a teacher who loved his or her subject matter so much that it made the class come alive for you, too. Well, teachers who love the Lord and love their Catholic faith can have that same effect!

Another way we try to assist parents in guiding their children toward Jesus is through our curriculum. The Catholic Church has contributed a rich, intellectual tradition to the world, and in our Catholic schools we strive to teach this to our students in every subject area — not just in religion class.

However, the curriculum is not the only avenue for teaching our students about Christ and his church. Perhaps the most important path to Christ that Catholic schools provide is prayer. Our students have the opportunity to ask for prayers and to give prayers. Prayer is the one gift we can always give one another, and prayer is a “sure-fire” way of entering into deeper communion with Jesus.

Speaking of “communion,” what greater prayer is there than the sacrifice of the Mass? Catholic school students have the opportunity to receive the body and blood of Christ during the school day — but this should not take the place of receiving Christ on Sundays. Rather, it is an added blessing our students receive and another way we partner with parents.

This fall, two more O’Hara grandchildren will be walking the halls of Catholic schools. It gives me great joy and comfort to know that they are in an environment each day that fosters their faith. In the end, faith in and friendship with Christ are the true keys to success in this life, and the keys that open the door to eternal life with him.

I am so grateful that our Catholic schools stay focused on this and do, indeed, “let the children come” to Jesus.

¡Vaya con Dios!

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