The Valley Catholic January 21, 2020 | Page 3 | January 21, 2020 IN THE DIOCESE 3 The Ministry of Catholic Schools Although I am away this week to give re- ports of our Diocese to Pope Francis and his administration in Rome, I wish to acknowledge the celebration of Catho- lic Schools Week. As we celebrate this important ministry of our church, I am cognizant of the great blessing Catholic schools have been for our families, our communities, for public and private life, and for our country. Catholic schools have educated leaders in public life and in private industry; they have strength- ened marriages and formed spirit-filled and purposeful parents. Catholic schools have helped form communi- ties of joy in learning, of respect for one another, of exploration of laws of the natural world, of respect and awe at the laws of God’s love and truth, and a sense of wonder at the God-created universe. While there are many qualities that make up Catholic schools, I highlight three: Catholic identity, sustainability, and accessibility. Catholic Identity: Catholic schools must be Catholic. What do I mean by this? It does not mean that all who participate in the mission and fruits of Catholic education must be Catholic. No. Catholic schools are open to all who acknowledge the value of a Catholic education. Catholic identity means we must be Catholic through and through. From the doctrine we teach, to the tradition in which we worship, to the outreach to humanity which we practice – we must be Catholic. As Catholics we do not proselytize: we do not force or pressure people to accept Catholicism. Rather, we live the faith in joy and offer a witness of hope to the world. Sustainability: the ministry of Catho- lic schools is so important that it is criti- cal that we assure the sustainability of these institutions for future students and generations. It is easy to get com- fortable in the structure of an institu- tion, such that, unfortunately, we don’t think about whether that structure is sustainable into the future. Adminis- trators and boards need to think about whether a school’s structure needs to be tweaked, or if it needs a new direction or strategy, for sustainability into the future. I am most grateful to our many pastors, board members, and school administrators for the insightful and courageous work they have done and continue to do in this regard. Pertinent data is most important in assessing the needs of schools into the future. Accessibility: part of the legacy and heritage of Catholic schools in the United States has been providing quality Catholic education to working class and immigrant families. In this way, Catholic schools have provided countless families and individuals a hand up in society, preparing them for leadership in families, community, and society. It is important that our schools remain accessible to families from all socio-economic backgrounds. Catholic schools have played an important role in preparing quality leadership from which our country has benefited for generations. I am grateful to our school leadership for providing scholarships to families in financial need. We intend to continue to provide and grow needed scholarships at the Diocesan level for deserving families. A blessed Catholic Schools Week to all! Bishop Oscar Cantú Catholic Schools Week Celebration Each January, Catholic schools across the nation come together for a week-long celebration of Catholic education. As I began preparing for this year’s Catholic Schools Week liturgies, I found myself struck by Sunday’s Gospel where we find Christ calling his disciples. While I’ve read the passage in Matthew’s fourth chapter many times, I heard it for the first time through my young daughter’s voice. For the past couple months, she’s been asking for stories before bed, so I started by sharing anecdotes from when I was a child – hiking the Appalachian Trail with my dad, diving into art with my mom, learning to play the saxo- phone (which sounds remarkably like a buzz saw in the first few weeks). Soon, though, my daughter began requesting more recent stories. It was in the middle of one of these when she suddenly asked, “Why did you want to be a Catholic school teacher?” In the moment, I admit- tedly gave her a brief response, but as I was rereading Matthew’s Gospel, I heard her voice echo in Christ’s call, “Come after me,” and I began reflecting more deeply on my journey. Serving in Catholic education wasn’t what I ever anticipated as a child. Growing up in a small town in Ten- nessee, I didn’t have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school until I reached college. Upon graduation, led by a deep commitment to our Church’s social teachings, I joined a two-year “ser- vice-through-teaching” program that placed me as a seventh-grade teacher in a Catholic elementary school in inner- city Los Angeles. It is there that I first experienced the unparalleled impact of Catholic education. I witnessed how Catholic schools have the immense ability to transform a child’s life, how– amid a societal culture of increasing isolation–Catholic schools affirm hu- man dignity and embrace every child in a community of belonging. It is there that I first understood that I was called to dedicate my vocation to Catholic education, a call that has led me here. God’s call to the ministry of Catholic education, however, is not unique to me. It has touched over a thousand educa- tors and staff throughout our diocese. To all those serving in our schools, we are indebted to your willingness and commitment to answer this call each day. You are touching the very hearts of those you serve, nurturing communion with Christ and one another. For over 15,000 students within our diocese, you ensure that every child has a voice and that every child feels known and seen. You foster a love of learning, a deep sense of compassion, and a commit- ment to serving humanity and protect- ing God’s creation. You are giving our youth the lens not only to navigate the world but the ability to truly transform it. In this way, you are ensuring that Catholic schools are at the very heart of our Church and the future of our com- munity. I sincerely thank you for being stewards of this vital ministry. We are not, however, doing this work alone, and many outside tradi- tional administrators, faculty, and staff are answering the call to support Cath- olic schools. Indeed, formation of chil- dren is such a central ministry, woven into the very fabric of our Church, that we’re all invited to this sacred mission – through the partnership of parents as primary educators, the guidance of pastors, the generosity of benefactors, the engagement of alums and parish- ioners, the prayers of the community, the encouragement of a new family to join a school, the donation of a schol- arship to provide an opportunity to a child, the offering of time and talent. I extend my deep gratitude to the wider community for this immense impact on our Catholic schools. Building on this work of all those sup- porting Catholic education today, we at the Department of Catholic Schools are also striving to respond to Christ’s call by endeavoring to transform education in our valley. We are fostering connec- tions and networks across our schools, creating opportunities for leaders and educators to learn from the diverse expe- rience and expertise of one another. We are strengthening our programs, open- ing our doors, and developing opportu- nities to support accessibility as we work to fulfil our mission to welcome, serve, and fully form all children. We are tak- ing a critical look at our operations and growing them in a manner that meets not only the needs of our ministry today but the sustainability of this ministry for future generations. As our nation celebrates Catholic Schools Week, I encourage everyone to reach out to one another to share your own stories of Catholic schools. And as we enter this new year, I invite us all to return to Matthew’s Gospel through the voice of a child and reflect on Christ’s apostolic invitation: How are we each called to support the mis- sion of Catholic education? Many blessings, Jennifer Beltramo Superintendent of Schools