by Kathy O’Hara
Dear friends of Catholic schools,
I love visiting our Catholic schools at this time of year. Elementary school hallways and classrooms are adorned with beautifully colored fall leaves, pumpkins, and messages of the things in their lives for which they thank God. High school lockers display not only team cheers and homecoming royalty hopefuls, but also pictures of saints whom the students have selected as their class and school patrons.
Catholic schools in many ways are similar to other schools. Like public schools, our Catholic schools are accredited by the Kansas State Department of Education. Thus, we are held to the same standards in terms of student academic achievement and teacher credentials as all other state accredited schools. However, Catholic schools exist for a fundamentally different purpose — to teach our students the Catholic faith.
Recently, I attended the graduation ceremony for Donnelly College students who are inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. When I visited with the graduates afterwards, one talked about how important education is, especially for the prison population.
“You can’t be what you don’t know,” he said.
I think his profound words can apply to Catholic schools.
If our primary purpose is to pass on the faith and help our students develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then we must be sure that our students come to know Jesus and his church. To help our teachers with this mission, we offer opportunities for them to grow in their own relationship with Christ.
One such opportunity was held in Topeka at the beginning of October. All 1,200 of our teachers and administrators were able to hear Dr. Scott Hahn speak about his conversion story. His talk was a perfect prelude to the beautiful Eucharist that Archbishop Naumann and many archdiocesan priests celebrated with us.
An added highlight of the day was the talk by the religious Sisters of the Apostles of the Interior Life, who spoke on reconciliation. Teachers then had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation prior to Mass. All in all, it was an inspiring and rejuvenating day for teachers in Catholic schools.
I know that because of opportunities like these, as well as the other ways we support teachers in their own faith journeys, our students are witnessing adults who love the Lord and proclaim that in word and deed to their students. I know that our students have a greater chance of “being” disciples of Christ because they “know” what that looks like.
When I walk the halls of schools at this time of year, I smile because, while we may not be perfect, I see kids becoming closer to Jesus in our schools!
¡Vaya con Dios!