As I stood on the altar behind Bishop Rozanski and peered out over his right shoulder Tuesday afternoon into a sea of smiling and inquisitive children’s faces, one thought continually raced through my mind.
We are truly blessed as a faith community to have Catholic schools.
Bishop Rozanski was presiding during Mass at School of the Incarnation in Gambrills, where he was present to celebrate Catholic Schools Week in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Catholic Schools week began Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 2. This year’s theme is “Catholic schools raise the standards,” which highlights the recent launch of national best practices to ensure the sustainability of Catholic schools and the consistent student achievement as a result of high academic standards and an emphasis on spiritual formation.
In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, there are 49 Catholic elementary, middle schools and 20 high schools, serving 27,118 students.
As a father and deacon, I was proud, impressed and awed as I watched hundreds of students from grades kindergarten through eighth grade listen intently as Bishop Rozanski preached in his homily about the gift of Catholic schools to our communities and to the Church. He eloquently stated that in our Catholic schools, students learn math, science, social studies and much more, but most importantly, they learn about our Catholic faith and how to live it every day, sharing the love of Jesus.
Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Baltimore has seen a change in landscape in recent years, due to declining enrollments and increased tuition costs. Other factors have come into play as well that have resulted in a new way of thinking, and doing, Catholic education in the future.
The bottom line is that Catholic education must continue to be treasured, promoted and supported by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Catholic schools benefit the communities in which they exist in many ways. The public school system in Maryland saves hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because of Catholic schools. We must be innovative in the way we fund Catholic education; relying solely on tuition and individual donations is an outdated funding model. We need broader community and corporate financial support to ensure the valuable Catholic education our children continues to thrive and is viable and sustainable for future generations.
As my third-grade daughter opened Mass Tuesday by welcoming Bishop Rozanski, as well as her dad — the deacon — I smiled as I thought about the gifts Catholic education has already given our family. I recalled how my best friend told me many years ago, long before I had children, that he would do anything and pay any price to keep his children in Catholic school. “I’d work three jobs if I had to,” he said. “There’s something special about being a part of the Catholic school community. It’s a close connection – like family.”
Years later, I can confidently say I couldn’t agree with him more.
So, let’s continue to treasure, promote and support our Catholic schools. In today’s world, our Catholic schools are the proverbial lamp that needs to not be hidden under a bushel basket, but rather held up on a lampstand to shine brightly.