We continue our celebration of Catholic Schools Week today by hearing from Chuck Lamphier. He works for the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame and serves as President of the School Board at Holy Cross School (which is a school run by Holy Cross) in South Bend, Indiana. A wonderful collaboration with Holy Cross in our mission and a great man of faith, Chuck shares with us the true hope he sees Catholic schools bringing each and every day.
If I were writing a standard mission statement for Catholic schools, I’d turn to St. Peter’s first epistle for inspiration. In it, he writes, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).
Catholic schools have earned a sterling reputation for their successes in reducing the achievement gap and preparing students for college and the work force. They’re well known for inculcating good habits and discipline, and for providing a safe environment for children to learn and grow. Millions of families have appreciated how Catholic schools rightly respect the primary role of parents in education.
I love this track record of success, and I know that Catholic schools will continue to excel in these important ways. But the most important reason why I love Catholic schools to my very core is that they prepare children ‘to give an explanation for the reason for their hope.’
• In a world that struggles to find meaning in the joys and sorrows of daily experiences, Catholic schools help children recognize the presence of grace in their lives.
• In a world that offers privilege to some while marginalizing many, Catholic schools teach the dignity of each person.
• In a world that rewards selfishness and greed, Catholic schools extol the virtues of humility and generosity.
• In a world that spreads the lie of self-sufficiency, Catholic schools invite children to recognize the importance of community.
• In a world that can too often be dark and broken and foreboding, Catholic schools provide to children and families an apprenticeship in hope.
Hope is in short supply for too many. And with contemporary culture conflating “hope” with material success or ease of life, it will necessarily remain an elusive commodity – always available just beyond our current state, but never attained.
I thank God for Catholic schools for many, many reasons. But most of all, I’m grateful that they allow the Paschal mystery to echo down their hallways and into their lessons. In doing so, they teach children reasons for true hope.The Christian concept of hope taught in Catholic schools links the grittiness of every day life with the promise of eternity, and does so through the cross and resurrection of the Lord. With this reality providing the spoken and unspoken backdrop to math class, recess, moments of discipline, making new friends, times of celebration, and everything else that goes on in school, children are taught to see the world as a hope-filled place where light is stronger than darkness and life is stronger than death.