Next week, we will again celebrate Catholic Schools Week at each of our 53 Catholic elementary and high schools here in the Diocese of Green Bay. I look forward every year to this week, especially the opportunity I have to celebrate Mass with the students.
As I reflect on the gift of our Catholic schools, I am grateful for the many wonderful things that I see happening. Through the implementation of our strategic plan that was launched in January 2018, we have begun to witness many positive outcomes. For the second consecutive year, we are experiencing growth in our overall enrollment.
The expansion of the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP) has contributed to this increased enrollment by making Catholic schools more accessible to more families. In addition, with support from our school advancement director and school financial planning director, our schools are exploring new models for tuition to ensure that everyone who wants to attend a Catholic school is able to make that happen. And we continue to see great academic achievement from our students, thanks to the dedication of faculty and staff who work in our schools. We are abundantly blessed!
Yet, for me personally, the most exciting thing I see happening in our Catholic schools is the way they are becoming schools of discipleship. I am overjoyed as I see parents, schools and parishes working collaboratively for the sake of bringing the church alive with missionary discipleship. I would like to highlight some of the exciting ways this is happening.
At the start of the past two years, faculty and staff of our Catholic schools have participated in discipleship seminars focused on discovering and following Jesus. As a follow-up to the seminars, they have participated in Alpha, which has helped them deepen their own faith and relationship with Jesus. When these teachers and staff grow in their own faith, it naturally pours out into their classrooms, into the offices and into the cafeteria and gymnasium. This is what missionary discipleship looks like — become a friend of Jesus, make a friend and introduce your friend to Jesus.
Our students and their families are the beneficiaries of this. Not only are our students growing in their faith each day at school, but they are bringing this faith home to share with their family. We have even heard stories of parents coming into or back to the church at the invitation of their children. Praise Jesus!
But the Spirit doesn’t stop with the families. It continues its ripple effect out into the world. These families are bringing that Spirit into their parishes. And parishes and schools have begun to collaborate on projects that serve the community. One parish and school came together for a joint project to rake leaves for the elderly in their parish mission field, while others have worked together to support food pantries in our communities. The Spirit is moving and it is a blessing to witness it and be a part of it!
The key to all of this is the presence of dedicated visionary leaders who are facilitating a culture of discipleship in their schools that takes root in the hearts of their students, faculty and parents. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of the leaders, faculty and staff of our Catholic schools. You are changing the church and changing the world!
As you can see, we have much to be grateful for. I ask you to spend some time this week thanking God for the blessing of our Catholic schools. And please join me in praying that they may continue to grow as schools of discipleship, where students can discover, follow, worship, and share Jesus with the world.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.