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BEFORE THE CROSS | Reacting to the mighty deeds of Christ and His Church

The Gospel readings for Catholic Schools Week help us reflect on the mighty deeds of Jesus. He cures the Gerasene demoniac; He heals the woman who touched the tassel of His cloak; He raises the daughter of Jairus from the dead. And the apostles report that they have accomplished everything in His name.

The Church is the mystical body of Christ, and Catholic education is one of the mighty deeds of Jesus in our day. Through Catholic schools — in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and across the country — Jesus brings His teaching mission to our time and place.

The story of Catholic schools in the United States begins with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821). A convert, she founded a Catholic school for girls in Maryland and established the U.S.'s first parochial school system. The patron saint of Catholic schools, she teaches us that converts bring something essential to Catholic schools.

St. John Neumann (1811-60) also was a major figure in the formation of U.S. Catholic schools. An immigrant from Bohemia and the fourth Archbishop of Philadelphia, he established the first diocesan-wide school system in the U.S. He teaches us that immigrants bring something essential to Catholic schools, and that diocesan systems prevent individual schools from standing alone.

The story of U.S. Catholic schools includes St. Katherine Drexel (1858-1955). Born in Philadelphia when St. John Neumann was archbishop, she was actively involved with Native American and African-American communities across the country. She used her inheritance to support missions and schools in those communities. She teaches us that Catholic schools contribute to racial justice.

Great lights in the history of Catholic schools in the archdiocese are St. Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) and fellow French immigrant St. Mother Theodore Guerin (1798-1856). Our Catholic schools are their legacy, so we have much for which to be thankful and much to learn.

The Gospel readings for the week also show us how people react to the mighty deeds of Jesus — and it isn't all smooth sailing. Some receive Him with gratitude while others take offense. Some ask to stay with Him while others ask Him to leave. Some proclaim what He has done for them while others plot His downfall.

The mighty deeds of Jesus looked different to those who received them in faith, and to those who approached them without faith. The same is true today. People respond to Christ's presence in Catholic schools in positive ways, but the Word of God sometimes provokes opposition. That's hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with the Gospels. We give thanks for those who receive Christ in faith, and produce good fruit. We pray for those who lack faith and reject Him.

God bless our Catholic schools — a mighty deed of Jesus for our times! 


Deacon Robert S. Penberthy, a permanent deacon assisting the pastor of St. George Parish in Affton, is granted retirement status, effective Feb. 1.

Rev. Eric F. Olsen, associate pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Webster Groves, is assigned to the Latin America Apostolate serving the Archdiocese of La Paz, Bolivia, effective July 1. 

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