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EDITORIAL | As students head back to school, it’s a reminder of our Catholic schools’ primary mission to evangelize

Schools’ primary mission should be to evangelize students, help them bring the Gospel message to the world

The central mission of Catholic schools is to bring young people into a relationship with Christ and to form them as disciples to share His Good News with others. That’s what we call evangelization.

As students head back to school, it’s important to remember that Catholic education doesn’t exist solely for academics. Our priorities shouldn’t be focused on the newest technology, STEM lab or outdoor classroom space. Ultimately, our Catholic schools’ primary mission is the development of the whole person, through spiritual and academic formation based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Catholic schools serve the faith community and society by educating young people to contribute to the common good by becoming active and caring members of the communities in which they live. They support the work of parents, who are the first teachers of the faith to their children.

Amid All Things New, the archdiocese’s strategic pastoral planning initiative, we are encouraged to rediscover and deepen our understanding of human formation within our Catholic schools. We also must examine how we are forming students to become lifelong Catholics who are learning to go out and share their Catholic faith with others.

An instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education released in March noted a need to foster a “renewal” of the essential characteristics of Catholic schools. Feedback from the congregation’s members and consultants, as well as bishops from all over the world, have demonstrated “the need for a clearer awareness and consistency of the Catholic identity of the Church’s educational institutions all over the world.”

While Catholic schools have an essential role in the life of the Church, fostering and instilling faith and formation, they are also part of the Church’s missionary witness and represent the Church in society, according to the text.

Pope Francis, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s declaration “Gravissimum Educationis,” said that the Church’s work of education is aimed “at developing the maturity of the human person … but is especially directed towards ensuring that those who have been baptized become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received” (“Gravissimum Educationis,” 2).

“As educators, you are called to nurture the desire for truth, goodness and beauty that lies in the heart of each individual, so that all may learn how to love life and be open to the fullness of life,” the Holy Father wrote in a message to a delegation from English-speaking Catholic universities visiting Rome in April.

“Catholic education is also evangelization: bearing witness to the joy of the Gospel and its power to renew our communities and provide hope and strength in facing wisely the challenges of the present time,” he said.

To see the fruits of that, we must recognize that our Catholic schools must first remain rooted in a mission of bringing young people into a relationship with Christ. From there, the fruits will flourish as they bring His Gospel message to the world.

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