Throughout January, we celebrate the liturgical memorials of many saints who dedicated themselves to learning and to education. Religious sisters, such as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Angela Merici, formed communities of women committed to the education of youth and families. Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen are celebrated as Doctors of the Church, and their theological studies and writings still help us to better understand the mystery of who God is and who He created us to be. At the end of the month, we will praise God for the life and work of St. Thomas Aquinas who, as both a scholar and professor, is honored for his invaluable contributions to not only the study of theology, but also for his promotion of the coherence between faith and reason.
Each of these women and men understood that the created world reveals God’s goodness to us. As we learn about the world, we uncover the order in which God established it from the first moments of creation. And God established that order with our best interests in mind. God created all things for our benefit, both to foster our flourishing in this life and to lead us to be with Him forever in the next. This combination of appreciating the physical world around us while learning deeper, transcendent truths about God and the spiritual realm is a hallmark of Catholic education.
For centuries Catholic schools and universities have sought to ground human knowledge in the foundation of divine truths. We cannot fully appreciate the beauty of the world around us if we don’t keep in mind that God has both placed us in it and entrusted us with caring for it. In wondering at the created order, we can learn the magnitude of God’s love for us and the richness of our nature as human beings created in His image and likeness. In this sense, Catholic education acknowledges and fosters the development of every aspect of the person: physical, spiritual, emotional and relational.
Such integral development of the whole human being is the work carried out tirelessly by the thousands of teachers, faculty and staff members of the 113 Catholic grade schools and high schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. All told, more than 40,000 students are formed in these fine schools each year. That work could not be accomplished without the additional support of thousands of parish and school volunteers who serve as coaches, aides or assistants with after school care and other programs. To all of you, I express my sincere gratitude. The commitment you show to our young people opens to them opportunities for a full and successful life in this world and, more importantly, for eternity.
Finally, I acknowledge the parents of our students. You have shown you believe in the value of a Catholic education and make many sacrifices to send your children to Catholic schools. The work to educate your children begins in the home, and the foundations you lay there are built upon by the faculty and staff members to whom you entrust your children each day.
Together we all contribute to the education of our young people, so that they can discover the richness of God’s creation and the plan He has for them within it. God has a definite purpose for each of our lives; let us thank Him for the gift of an education by which each student can discern that purpose and to acquire the skills necessary to fulfill it. In doing so, we discover the fullness of life which Christ came to bestow upon us (cf. Jn. 10:10).