Witness of adults is vital part of school's identity
4. Almost 25 years have passed since your Conference issued "To Teach as Jesus Did", a document which is still very relevant today. It emphasized the importance of another aspect of Catholic education: "More than any other programme of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be ...oriented to Christian service because it helps students acquire skills, virtues and habits of heart and mind required for effective service to others" (n. 106). On the basis of what they see and hear, students should become ever more aware of the dignity of every human person and gradually absorb the key elements of the Church's social doctrine and her concern for the poor. Catholic institutions should continue their tradition of commitment to the education of the poor in spite of the financial burdens involved. In some cases it may be necessary to find ways to share the burden more evenly, so that parishes with schools are not left to shoulder it alone.
A Catholic school is a place where students live a shared experience of faith in God and where they learn the riches of Catholic culture. Taking proper account of the stages of human development, the freedom of individuals, and the rights of parents in the education of their children. Catholic schools must help students to deepen their personal relationship with God and to discover that all things human have their deepest meaning in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ. Prayer and the liturgy, especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, should mark the rhythm of a Catholic school's life. Transmitting knowledge about the faith, though essential, is not sufficient. If students in Catholics schools are to gain a genuine experience of the Church, the example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is crucial: the witness of adults in the school community is a vital part of the school's identity.
Numberless religious and lay teachers and other personnel in Catholic schools down the years have shown how then-professional competence and commitment are grounded in the spiritual, intellectual and moral values of the Catholic tradition. The Catholic community in the United States and the whole country have been immeasurably blessed through the work of so many dedicated religious in schools in every part of your country. I also know how much you value the dedication of the many lay men and women who, sometimes at great financial sacrifice, are involved in Catholic education because they believe in the mission of Catholic schools. If in some cases there has been an eroding of confidence in the teaching vocation, you must do all you can to restore that trust.
5. Catechesis, either in schools or in parish-based programmes, plays a fundamental role in transmitting the faith. The Bishop should encourage catechists to see their work as a vocation: as a privileged sharing in the mission of handing on the faith and accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). The Gospel message is the definitive response to the deepest longings of the human heart. Young Catholics have a right to hear the full content of that message in order to come to know Christ, the One who has overcome death and opened the way to salvation. Efforts to renew catechesis must be based on the premise that Christ's teaching, as transmitted in the Church and as authentically interpreted by the Magisterium, has to be presented in all its richness, and the methodologies used have to respond to the nature of the faith as truth received (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1). The work you have begun through your Conference to evaluate catechetical texts by the standard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help to ensure the unity and completeness of the faith as it is presented in your Dioceses.
Next installment: part three of three