Column: The life of the soul: Catholic schools take it seriously

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,

Welcome to a new school year! If you are like me, you recently have either taken or received photographs of young children, smiling from ear to ear, as they head out the door for their first day of school. I always pray that every day during the school year may stir this same excitement in our students, teachers, and parents.

Not long ago, I was asked to answer the question: “Why should I send my children to a Catholic school?”

I was reminded of a recent article stating that public schools lack attention to the most important element of a child’s education — the soul. How do Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas take the life of the soul seriously? By focusing on being joyfully Catholic, diligently achieving, and intentionally self-giving.

“Joyfully Catholic” means:

• teachers who embrace the faith; who are happy about being Catholic; who want to learn more about the faith and also to deepen their relationships with Christ; and  who are beautiful witnesses of the faith to their students and the entire school community so that all may come to know Jesus as a friend

• what is taught to students reflects a Catholic worldview, grounded in
the moral theology and social justice teachings of the church; the contributions of church scholars are presented; Catholic sources and resources are used as instructional materials

• how we treat one another and how we act in and out of school is positive witness to the Gospel; our school buildings and classrooms display Gospel-centered art and other visuals; we pray in school!

“Diligently achieving” means that we want our students to achieve not for competition’s sake, but because we are called to develop the talents God gave us.

“Intentionally self-giving” refers to our charity toward others, which is rooted in
a discernment process that asks students to reflect on their God-given talents and how he is asking them to use them to serve him and others in fulfillment of the Gospel.

Thus, what makes Catholic schools different goes beyond offering a daily religion class.

The results of a study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington indicate that students who  attend Catholic schools from elementary through high school are the largest segment of practicing adult Catholics.

The message is clear — to increase the chance of our young people remaining practicing Catholics as adults, send them to Catholic schools because we strive to nurture the souls of our students so that they experience a close relationship with Jesus Christ, which, in turn will enable them to show his light to others.

Vaya con Dios!

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