Tuesday, September 21, 2021


"...to this they (bishops, priests, all the Catholic faithful) feel obliged in conscience, and with a generosity and constancy worthy of all praise, they are firmly determined to make adequate provision for what they openly profess as their motto: 'Catholic education in Catholic schools for all the Catholic youth.'"

-Pope Pius XI, 1929, Divini Illius Magistri, #82

Sir Isaac Newton, in what might be considered a backhanded compliment to his predecessors in science, said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants" (Newton, in a letter to Robert Hooke, 1675). Regardless of Newton's intent, though, this line honoring those that have come before us testifies to the fact that we owe much to our ancestors. 

In Catholic education within the United States, those of us blessed to minister in this way definitely stand on the shoulders of giants. From bishops and priests who navigated oppressive waters to preserve the Catholic faith of their flocks, to waves of religious women who heroically supplied Catholic schools with their teaching and charisms, and parents and families who helped build our schools with with brick, mortar, and sweat, we can see further because of the work of these giants of Catholic schools. 

We stand upon a solid foundation thanks to these pioneers; we must also embrace their vision for Catholic education that we should see clearly from this heightened vantage point: "Catholic education in Catholic schools for all the Catholic youth." 

This powerful vision stems from a deep belief in the power of Catholic education. Catholic education "takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ" (Pope Pius XI, 1929, #95). Therefore, Catholic education casts a really wide net. Given the fact that Catholic schools form students in all subject matters, including religion, and that this takes place over the course of five full school days, this wide net also can and should run deep.

Since Catholic schools can and should have a deep impact on the formation of their students, this shouldn't be exclusive to Catholics. Pope Pius XI writes, "(H)er mission to educate extends equally to those outside the Fold, seeing that all (people) are called to enter the kingdom of God and reach eternal salvation" (1929, #26). As such, the Church's vision of Catholic education declared by Pope Pius XI in Divini Illius Magistri should be extended to see beyond the walls of our Church:
Catholic education of the highest quality to as many students as possible.

This vision, this picture of the preferred future within Catholic schools, is what the world should look like when programs like the Alliance for Catholic Education and the many notches within its wide and deep net, cast out into the deep and lower their nets for a catch. By forming dynamic teachers and transformational leaders informed and inspired by a Catholic worldview, while also forming educators in the areas such as STEM, inclusion, and English as a New Language in the context of our rich faith, we can sustain, strengthen, and transform Catholic schools. We can and must make our Catholic schools more academically excellent, spiritually rich, holistically formative, and accessible to all children and families, regardless of academic standing, financial status, or religious affiliation. 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dove_of_the_Holy_Spirit.png 

May those of us in Catholic education blessed enough to stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us, see this vision with clarity, and may we pursue it with zeal and conviction united with each other and in cooperation with "divine grace" (Pope Pius XI, 1929, #94).    


British Broadcasting Corporation. (n.d.). Learning English - Moving Wordshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/movingwords/shortlist/newton.shtml 

Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini Illius Magistri. In Nuzzi, R., and Hunt, T. (Eds.), At the Heart of the Church: Selected documents of Catholic education, (pp. 37 - 60). Alliance for Catholic Education Press.