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Column: Veterans Day program demonstrated what Catholic schools can do

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,

If you could have been with us on Veterans Day, you would have been pleased with what you saw in one of our Catholic schools. My associates — Ann Connor and Karen Kroh — and I stopped in to watch the Veterans Day program at Atchison Catholic Elementary School (ACES). I was so glad we stopped!

We heard the choirs of the fifth grade and older students sing beautifully. Not only did they carry the melodies and harmonies, they sang with poise and confidence. We then heard the band play with the same skill and poise. It was obvious these young students were taught well and they enjoyed showing what they learned.

During the program, the veterans in the audience were asked to stand and be recognized as the principal, Diane Liebsch, read each one’s name, branch and length of service, and relation to the school community. When she thanked them for their service, she added, “God bless you.”

The program concluded with a prayer and the audience joining the choirs to sing “America the Beautiful.”

As a wife and mother of two former Marines and a daughter-in-law and sister-in-law to five others, I was very moved by what I witnessed. As the superintendent of Catholic schools for the archdiocese, I was smiling from ear to ear!

I wanted to shout aloud, “Now that’s what I’m talking about! That’s a Catholic school!” These students and staff were maximizing their God-given talents to honor him and his creation. It made me think of the Gospel two weeks ago in which Matthew the Evangelist told the parable of the talents. Not that I am in the habit of trying to predict what Jesus would say in any given situation(!), but I couldn’t help but think that, if he had attended the ACES program, he might have said, “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

As I reflect this Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I am able to serve in a capacity where I can witness events like the one at ACES. In the 44 Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese, there are numerous occasions like these where we are free to celebrate the values upon which this country was founded.

Just as Msgr. Mike Mullen said at the Gaudeamus celebration last month, “Catholic schools are free to help children and youth to learn to pray, to find the vocation God plans for them in life, and to set their sights on heaven where Jesus promises eternal peace and joy to all who love and serve in his name.”

What a gift for which to be thankful!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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Kathy O'Hara

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