This past weekend, I was blessed and honored to represent ICS at the annual Catholic Foundation Dinner in support of tuition assistance for Catholic education within the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
The evening focused heavily on two very important issues:
1. The power of Catholic schools
2. The importance of this power being made available to all
The first focus - the power of Catholic schools - was a topic common to just about all of the speakers. Many answered the question, "How has your life been changed because of Catholic education?" From the essay contest winner - a student from Bishop Larkin who lost his father a few years ago to cancer; to the keynote speaker - Lino Rulli, known as "The Catholic Guy" on Sirius Radio; to the Catholic Education Leadership Award winner - Scott Riley, a prominent business man, graduate of Mary Help of Christians and stout supporter of Step Up for Students; all touched on the fact that the environment created in their respective Catholic schools changed them for good and for the good.
The student from Bishop Larkin found the strength of community during a confusing, emotional and disheartening time of his life. Lino found the depth of faith after his roommate during his junior year of college died. Scott found the compassion of others during his time at Mary Help of Christians - he was able to go there thanks to a generous donor and it was there that he learned of the importance of helping others.
In each case, the power wielded by their respective Catholic schools, changed them for good and for the good.
As is written in The Catholic School:
It is when the Catholic school adds its weight, consciously and overtly, to the liberating power of grace, that it becomes the Christian leaven in the world (#84).
The second topic, the importance of making this type of transformative education available to all, was nearly just as important. The evening will probably bring in over $500,000 for tuition assistance across our diocese. Additionally, a heavy emphasis was placed on the good being done by Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship - Step Up for Students, and how this good is in jeopardy of being taken away because of a lawsuit being filed by the Florida Teachers Union and the NAACP (#dropthesuit). The pastoral and missionary aspects of Catholic education were highlighted, celebrated and encouraged.
We teach our students not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic.
We plant the seeds of faith and justice and peace and wisdom and compassion.
We change lives.
For good and for the Good.