It is Catholic Schools Week across the country and here at OLM. Now we don’t often speak about love in education. Not even 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.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an alumna of Blessed Sacrament School in The Bronx, calls Catholic schools a “pipeline to opportunity” for people like her. That’s true. And it’s true largely because Catholic school students are not just taught, but loved.
Yes we are always proud when our OLM students succeed academically. We like it when our OLM alumni excel at area high schools and beyond. Academic success is important too. In the popular view, our Catholic schools succeed because they have greater discipline, higher standards and more committed teachers.
However, it helps to 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 equal and God-given dignity of every human being as a child of God. In short, the Gospel that commands us to love one another obliges us to treat each person we encounter as we would Christ. We know that’s not always an easy thing to ask of any school, even a Catholic school. Though many people might argue that Catholic education, is about many things but not love. I firmly believe that the center of all Catholic Education is love.
The former New York Jet, Damien Woody, sent his children to St. Vincent Catholic School even though his family wasn’t Catholic. At a Christmas Pageant, another school parent asked him why. He answered, “My wife and I believe that a school where they love God will love my children.”
Such love is the hallmark of every Catholic School. That love exists here at OLM School every day. It is a deep love of God and of our neighbor. This Christian love is vastly different than simple humanitarianism. Such love is lived out in response to the call of Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. It is the sacrificial love offered by parents who work hard to afford tuition, a sacrificial love of a faculty who dedicate themselves to teaching their students without high salaries, and the pure and innocent love of the young minds encountering Christ in one another, in the classroom and in the Sacraments.
Our Lady of Mercy School Mission Statement 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
The measure of success at OLM School is not to be solely found in its great academic achievements, athletic victories, or artistic accomplishments. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his first encyclical letter, the Redeemer of Man: "Man cannot live without love and his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”
After all any student at any school can expertly learn to add and to subtract, to read and to write, to run and throw or to paint and act. No, Catholic Schools are not about being “socially useful” or are they simply about good “values.” Catholic education is about making saints and growing the seeds of virtue and truth and flourishing Christian mercy and love. Anything less cheats our children of their dignity.
If Catholic schools are really to be about love, then this love must be sustained,supported and nourished by us. So celebrate Catholic Schools this week! Visit OLM School this Sunday during the Open House. Do good. Be well. God Bless! Go Pats!!! We’re off to the Superbowl!!