This coming week is Catholic Schools Week. While the celebration will be different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains a great opportunity to recognize and give thanks for the great blessing that Catholic schools are to our church and our communities. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith, Excellence, Service,” and despite the challenges that the pandemic has forced upon us this year, faith, excellence and service remain the hallmarks of our Catholic schools.
Continuing to operate our schools in person during the pandemic has made clear the commitment to excellence that is vital to our Catholic schools. In the past year, administrators and teachers have learned new ways to deliver lessons and to connect with their students. Schools have adapted to be able to provide face-to-face, virtual and hybrid approaches, based on the needs of their families. Regardless of the particulars, every school remains committed to ensuring that each student gets the support they need to grow and truly thrive.
There are other signs of the commitment to excellence in our Catholic schools. This year, in the midst of a pandemic, Notre Dame School of De Pere opened its brand new building, while St. Ignatius School in Kaukauna and St. John Paul II Classical School in Green Bay announced plans to expand their offerings to include high school in the 2021-2022 school year. Students from St. Nicholas School in Freedom even won the international robotics competition back in April 2020, while the school was virtual! COVID-19 has not stopped our schools from striving for and achieving excellence.
The commitment to service found in our Catholic schools has grown even stronger during the pandemic. Teachers and administrators have put in countless extra hours to serve the unique needs of their students and families. Our students have continued to serve people in their communities through food and clothing drives, card-making for people who are isolated due to the pandemic, and many other service projects. Parents have also stepped up to plan and develop creative ways to raise funds for our schools due to the cancellation of many of the typical fundraising events. Service truly is at the heart of our Catholic schools.
While our faith has been tested in numerous ways, I am so grateful to our leaders and families, and their insistence that we do what is best for the children throughout this pandemic. The very hard work of last spring and summer to address this crisis, the heroic dedication of our principals and teachers, the great sacrifices of our parents during this time of great trial, the leadership and commitment of our pastors and priests to support their schools, all are examples of faith.
You know what this is? This is following Jesus and accompanying one another as one family of faith. Without the help of Jesus, our best friend, our Lord and our Savior, the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and the great legacy of faith preserved and passed on to us through the Catholic Church, we would be without hope. Now we can all be better servants of the Lord and one another and far more active missionary disciples to those around us.
This school year has been unlike any other that any of us have experienced, and truthfully, I hope we will never experience something like this again. But when I look at how our Catholic schools have responded to this crisis, I feel a great sense of pride and hope for our future. Their response shows us what we can do when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and come together around a shared mission and vision. And if this school year is helping us to rely more on Jesus, to trust more in the Holy Spirit and to grow as missionary disciples, then maybe the challenges of this year haven’t been so bad after all.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.