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Dear Parishioners: Well Fr. Barrow was relieved he had a “Happy Pastor” and a very “Sad Bishop” on Monday morning! A great game by the victorious Patriots over the Steelers resulted in much happiness for many and some sadness for one native of Pittsburgh who lives on the Wampanoag Trail!  Now we’re on to Houston!!

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This weekend we begin our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week.  We don’t speak much about love in education. Not even in the Church when we speak about Catholic Schools.  Instead, we focus on more tangible measures of success: how 99 percent of Catholic school students get their high-school diplomas; how a black or Latino child is 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if he or she has attended a Catholic high school; how Catholic schools manage to do all this at a fraction of the cost of public schools.

Don’t misunderstand, we are very proud when our OLM  School students succeed.  When their test scores are high and their academic work superior.  In the popular view, Catholic schools succeed because they have greater discipline, higher standards and more committed teachers.  But remember that the Latin root for the verb “to discipline” is not “to punish” but “to teach.” It’s a lesson that begins with recognizing the love of God and the God-given dignity of every human being.

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In short, the Gospel that commands us to love one another obliges us to treat each person we encounter as we would Christ. That’s not an easy thing to ask of a school, even a Catholic school.  Though many might argue that Catholic education, which is still the largest private education system in America and still outperforms most public schools, is about many things but not love. However,  I firmly believe that the center of Catholic Education is love.

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Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love”,  is home to the very first parish school, St. Mary’s School founded in 1783 by a parish priest, Fr. Robert Molineux.   As pastor he had to raise the funds to build the school, then find the funds to keep it operating and so he preached an annual “Charity Sermon” on behalf of the school so that the parishioners without children in the school might also contribute to its upkeep and operation. 

Not much has changed in over 200 years, I still have to do the same each year during Catholic Schools Week.  A time when we highlight the contribution of Catholic Education to our Church and society, the excellence of our own parish school and seek your support through today’s second collection,  the Saints and Scholars Annual Fund. OLM’s 13th Pastor, the late Fr. Brady, had a tremendous concern for the children of the parish.

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With the permission and encouragement of then Bishop Russell J. McVinney, Fr. Brady established OLM School. The Religious Sisters of Mercy staffed the school with  Sister Helena serving as Principal. God built the Church and School we’ve inherited through the hard work and sacrifice of the generations of believers who have gone before us. Their generosity and witness made our faith possible and both this wonderful parish and our excellent parish school possible. It’s now our turn to shape the future of this 21st Century  with the same zeal and dedication.

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The Mission Statement of OLM School reads: Our Mission at Our Lady of Mercy School is to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church as we pursue excellence in academics, athletics and the arts. In the midst of a safe and nurturing environment we seek to develop a good moral character built upon the teachings of the Catholic Church.  We strive to be Saints and Scholars who serve the evangelical mission of our parish so that Mercy may flourish.

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The measure of our success at OLM School is not to be solely found in  the  great academic achievements, the  many athletic victories, the outstanding programs or the  artistic accomplishments.  After all any student at any school, parochial, private or public,  can expertly learn to add and to subtract, to read and to write, to run and to throw or to paint and to sing. Catholic education is not about being “socially useful.” Nor is it only about good “values.” Catholic education is and must be about developing saints by  lovingly growing the seeds of the Catholic Faith in the children entrusted to our school. Anything less cheats these  children of their dignity as children of God.

So this week please join in and celebrate Catholic Schools Week, pray for OLM School and our budding saints and scholars! Thank your for your generous support of the Saints and Scholar’s Fund.  Be well. Do good. God Bless. Go Pats, Go!!!