Column: Friendship with Jesus at heart of catholic schools mission

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

Dear friends of Catholic schools, Trey started kindergaten this year.

His father texted me pictures with the message: “It went well.”

If the pictures were any indication, it certainly seemed to go well. Trey was grinning from ear to ear; his eyes were sparkling; and he was standing up so straight and tall, shoulders thrust back.

It looked to be a proud moment, a moment of eager excitement. He was ready for a new adventure!

Thousands of children across the country experience those same moments every school year. We educators have a profound responsibility to nurture that sense of wonder and awe that young children bring with them to school. This is no small task to accomplish in the setting of an organized school structure. At our school leaders’ kickoff meeting in early August, we remind our presidents and principals about the fundamental purpose of Catholic education: “passing on our faith through word and action in order to help our students develop a friendship with Jesus Christ and a love for his church.”

In order to accomplish this purpose, we strive to help our students develop their God-given gifts and talents and to prayerfully discern how God is calling them to use these talents.

We do this by relying on one of the hallmarks of Catholic education — the belief that children should be exposed to beauty, truth and goodness so that their souls may grow in virtue.

We show children beauty, truth and goodness, in part, by selecting literature and other reading materials that illustrate Gospel values that are uplifting; by having students learn the incredible intricacies of the God-created universe and natural law; by filling our school buildings with art that is inspiring; and by complementing our liturgies and classroom activities with music that stirs the soul.

Perhaps the most important element of what happens in Catholic schools, though, is the interaction between students and teachers. This interaction is eloquently described by Father Richard Jacobs, OSA, who describes teaching as an “intimate communication between souls.” Father Richard also reminds us that in Catholic schools the “subject of education is the student.”

So that brings me back to Trey. I know my grandson will learn to read and write well during his years of schooling; I pray that he also will learn to love Jesus, and that he never loses that sense of wonder.

¡Via con Dios!

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