Dear Parishioners:Well unless your last name was Harbaugh, there wasn’t much to celebrate in New England last Sunday night!  Tom Brady and the Patriots are headed to the golf course while the Baltimore Ravens head to New Orleans for the Superbowl. I was also rooting for the Atlanta Falcons as I am a big fan of their quarterback, Matt Ryan, so it was a doubly disappointing Sunday as they lost to the San Francisco Forty-Niners! Oh well, pitchers and catchers report to Red Sox Spring Training on February 10th! Go Sox!

However, there is much to celebrate this week as we mark Catholic Schools Week across the nation.  This annual week celebrating Catholic Education brings with it celebrations such as the Open House this Sunday at OLM School.  This special week will also be highlighted at the Rhode Island State House this Thursday afternoon.   The Catholic School Parents Federation is hosting an event for the members of the RI General Assembly in which several award-winning Catholic School students from across the state will be honored for their achievements and excellence in academics, athletics and community service.

The week will be celebrated here at Our Lady of Mercy with this weekend’s Open House, a Wednesday classroom visit for prospective students, and a Special Mass on Friday at 9:00AM.  We invite all of our parishioners to join us for the Mass as we unite ourselves in prayer for Catholic Education in our nation and for the students, families, faculty and staff of Our Lady of Mercy School.

Last year the Wall Street Journal  ran column by  Peter Beinart, entitled The Jewish Case for School Vouchers.  He very effectively made the point that, if Jews in the United States are worried about their children and grandchildren keeping the faith the best course of action is to support Jewish grade and high schools.  Mr. Beinart convincingly shows that Jewish children who attend Hebrew private schools are statistically much more likely, as adults, to practice their Jewish faith, attend synagogue, marry a Jewish spouse, and pass on the faith of Israel to their own children.  He remarks that American Judaism is at a crisis, with more and more Jews leaving their faith, and not raising their own children as faithful Jews. A strong Jewish school system, argues the author, will correct that.

We Catholics have known this for years: there is no more tried-and-true way of passing on our Catholic faith to our kids than by sacrificing to put them in a Catholic school. In our nation’s history, Catholic schools had two goals: to educate excellently, and to form children in the faith. Both are essential.  More than ever am I convinced of the irreplaceable value of our Catholic schools.Catholic Schools Week

Statistics show that alumni of Catholic grade schools, high schools, and colleges pray better and more often; know, accept, and practice the teachings of the faith better; are more committed to pro-life and social justice causes; are more likely to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life; support the Church more generously; volunteer more often; are more faithful to Sunday Mass; and have happier marriages. Not bad!

In full disclosure, I am a product of the Cranston Public School system.  However, all eight of my brothers and sisters went to St. Paul’s school. I remember my mother ironing  uniforms and making  lunches for them. The sacrifice my parents made to ensure a Catholic Education for my brothers and sisters was immeasurable.  I also see firsthand how the parents at Our Lady of Mercy School make the sacrifice  for Catholic education for their children.

I believe we can enhance our financial stewardship  of the school not just with tuition hikes, fees and fundraising but by creating true sense of stewardship of our school and its future for all our parishioners, our community at large and our alumni.  I hope we can further our efforts for tuition assistance for those who struggle to afford Catholic Education. Finally, as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, just remember: it’s all worth it! God Bless!