This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting a prospective family with two young students. It's always encouraging to meet families that are interested in our school, and I particularly enjoy when they desire to meet with me as part of their discernment process (I would require it anyways, but it's nice when they take the initiative). I appreciate the chance to ask questions of the family, engage the children and assess how well the family aligns with the mission of our school. In many cases, I am asked many questions about test scores, class sizes, textbooks, teacher credentials and other academically related topics. This particular family surprised me by only asking one question. I was even more taken aback by the content of the question:
How strong is your school's Catholic identity?
Hearing this was so refreshing. Responding to their question was incredibly humbling. I feel that I keep my priorities regarding my position as a Catholic school principal in proper order: 1. Catholic, 2. School. However, just like with all aspects of our education, I know that we continually fall short of our mission both to challenge each individual to be disciples of Christ and to strive to live out our Catholic faith through service to each other and the community. I know that we will always have good work to do in all areas, but especially in our school's Catholicity. For, I feel that even if we implement all of the right programs regarding our faith, our new challenge would be to keep our school community from feelings of superiority, righteousness, or even resentment toward those not a part of our school.
I am fairly certain I fumbled through my attempt at an answer and I can only hope and pray that my response met the criteria by which this family was judging our school. I really hope and pray that it does because of how wonderful it would be to have another family that uses this as its measuring stick.
This family revealed their identity to me through this poignantly simple question. I hope that I was able to reveal both mine and our school's and that it wasn't found lacking.
As Catholic schools, our identities should be so much more than strong academic schools. They should be so much more than places for the elite to gather and keep those with weaker minds, emptier pockets and / or troubled pasts in other locations. Our Catholic schools should resemble our Catholic Church - holy, catholic and apostolic. The education provided should be in the Catholic faith and through the Catholic faith.
Our schools should be unabashedly Catholic and we should couple this intense focus on our faith with a passionate desire to educate our children in the best possible way. God has given us both faith and intellects and the synergy that results from their marriage should be the goal of every Catholic school.
Students, as they grow and mature, are developing a sense of self. They become more and more independent and form bits and pieces of their identities as they matriculate from one grade level to the next.
They are becoming who God created them to be.
As Catholic schools, we need to help students identify who that is and then support them in the formation of this identity.
It's time for Catholic schools to identify what God created them to be and then work like mad to make that their identity.
And they'll know we are Catholic schools by our love, by our love.
Yes, it's time to begin.