Over the past month, at Holy Cross parishes throughout the United States, children have been returning to school. There is always a great deal of excitement that surrounds the beginning of the school year and in many ways the beginning of the school year also marks the beginning of the annual rhythm of parish life. Many of our parish ministries, groups, and commissions take a few months off over the summer, but with the return of the school year they also start to begin again. There is always a little bit of excitement, a little bit of energy that returns to a parish when school starts up again.
Administering schools is a ministry that is very dear to us in Holy Cross who describe ourselves as “educators in the faith.” While our colleges and universities are often the focus of our educational ministry and understandably so, our parish schools are also a source of great joy and zeal in our mission as educators in the faith. At the heart of many of our parishes is a strong parish school and so often the school gives life to the parish and the parish to the school. Our Constitutions state that: “wherever we work we assist others not only to recognize and develop their own gifts but also to discover the deepest longing in their lives.” The work of our parochial schools is in many ways the epitome of this sentiment. While we work hard to ensure that our students have a solid foundation in math, science, language arts, and the various other school subjects. The true transformative power of our parochial schools is not what is found in the classroom curriculum, though that is certainly important, but what we are able to teach about the Christian life through the example and life of our faculty, staff, and entire parish community.
The entire parish joins us in fostering an educational environment that is rooted in the life of Christ. In demonstrating to our youth at such an early age, the love, mercy, and compassion of Christ a parish is able to teach so much through example. It is our entire personal witness to the joys of the Christian life that teaches our youth the greatest lesson they can learn: what it means to be in relationship with a loving God. Having a school gives life to a parish because it is a constant reminder to the whole parish of the awesome impact the Christian Life can have on others. This reminder not only serves our youth, no matter what school they are in, but also the entire faith community. It helps keep us on our toes and encourages us in our own lives of faith because we can see what an impact it has on others. As the school year kicks off at apostolates throughout our province may our commitment to be educators in the faith inspire us to live our own lives of holiness so that our lives might inspire those around us, especially our youth, to live their own vocations in Christ.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is associate pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2013.