Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school for our Academy students! It was great to see our first through eight grade students gathered in Ferrante Hall at 8:00 am, ready to begin their first day and to embark on a new school year. Our Kindergarteners start today and our Pre-K students on Thursday. I’m happy to think about the new opportunities that await them this year! As they gathered this morning, there was a lot of excitement and energy, you could tell – also on the part of the parents, and for that matter the teachers and administrators as well! I saw a couple people shedding some tears, which is completely understandable. I know that our teachers and administrators care about our children very much and want them to learn and grow. I hope our students will form good, lasting friendships. Above all I hope St. Gregory’s is a place where they will feel the presence of God and know that they are loved by Him.

Our reading from St. Paul yesterday at Mass was highly appropriate for the first day of school.  The last verse, I Corinthians 2:16, stated, “[W]e have the mind of Christ.”  St. Paul exhorts Christians to take on and live according to the mind of Christ.  That’s what we are all about as a Catholic school: to help our children to know and to be formed by the mind of Christ and to be shaped and inspired by His ways. We want our children to have eyes of faith, so that they will be able to see so much more, both now and throughout their lives.   

What is unique about Catholic education? The answer is that at our school our students are allowed and encouraged to develop their friendship with Our Lord Jesus Christ, in an open manner throughout each school day.  This friendship with Christ is built into the structure of the school day and is part of the fabric of the Academy community. As part of their daily schedule, and not only during religion class, our students learn about Scripture, learn Church teachings, and take part in the sacraments and liturgies. Jesus Christ is a foundational and essential part of the spirit of the school.  Christianity is the ‘air that our students breathe.’

My goal as an administrator of course is to help each child in my parish to grow in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church, whether the child is at our Academy, or is in public school, home school, or at another institution.  I don’t “favor” the Academy students over the public school students or any other students. I myself never attended a Catholic school until I entered seminary. Each child can and should learn the ways of Faith.  Each parent in our parish is called to pass on the Faith to their child – in a manner adapted to the type of institution that their child attends.      

But at the same time I cannot help but think that Catholic education truly is a unique gift, in our community and in our world.  At the beginning of the school day yesterday, as all our Academy children were assembled, our principal, Dr. Jason Briggs, led the students in a prayer --- a prayer for guidance and protection from God.  At first this could just seem like a routine procedure, but in reality it was a powerful and profound moment. I am so pleased that the children were able to see the head of their school turning to God for help in such a public manner.  Furthermore, at our Academy the students are free to pray, to turn to our Creator for help, and to talk about and get to know Jesus. What a tremendous privilege these children have been given! My thoughts and prayers are with our 505 Academy students who begin their 2014-2015 academic year journey here at our parish.

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