This is Catholic Schools Week.
We highlight, first of all, the importance of simply sharing our Faith.
We just heard St. Paul say it wasn't he who was crucified for anyone, but Jesus Christ.
People were forming factions: "I am for Paul"; "I am for Apollos."
Today, it might be, "I am for Piqua Catholic"; "I am for homeschooling"; "I am for the public school." But we all have the same task: to share our Faith, starting with our own children.
Yes, during Catholic Schools Week, we do highlight the great resource we have in Piqua Catholic and Lehman High schools. After all, this involves sacrifice on the part of many, including the parish as a whole.
Will you forgive me if I point out a few reasons why our parish supports a Catholic grade school and high school? This is not to say anything negative, but to give reasons why we do what we do.
I cite a study by Georgetown University, which had interesting conclusions:
> 44% of Catholics who attend a Catholic high school graduate from college, while the figure is 28% for those attending a public school.
> Those who attend a Catholic high school are more likely, later in life, to say they would never leave the Catholic Church, and to say that Faith and prayer are high priorities.
Again, it gives a boost.
> Young men attending a Catholic school are more than twice as likely to consider a vocation as a priest, and the same for young women regarding a religious vocation.
That said, I stand before you, a priest, who attended only three years of Catholic education.
And I did leave the Church at age 19--and I did come back, in case you are wondering.
So it's not all one way. The point is, if the parish can give you, parents, a boost, a help--that's what it's all about.
We have a religious education program, with volunteers who deserve our thanks; we have programs from pre-K to grade 12 on Sunday mornings and evenings.
Our youth program didn't exist three years ago; now it's drawing interest from all over.
This is a good place to thank Sherry and Shawn Evans, and Kris and Dennis Pax, who are heading up the Seven Dollar a Month Club for both parishes. This raises funds for our religious education and youth programs. I finally sent in my check yesterday, so it's not too late for you!
In all these ways, we are doing what the Scriptures described: piercing the gloom with the light of Jesus Christ!
I come back to where Catholic education starts: in the home, even before the children are born. Studies say children begin to recognize their parents' voices in the womb. So for all that the parish can do to help, Catholic education is all about you, parents.
So, for example, we have families who send their children to a Catholic school, but don't bring them to Mass on Sunday; the same thing happens with our religious education program. That seems to me an odd choice.
I say it again: don't ever hesitate to bring even the youngest to Mass; they grow into it!
And if someone gives you the stink-eye, you give it right back!
The Mass is really where it all comes together. Vatican II reminded us that the Mass is "the source and summit" of our Faith. the more we discover what happens at Mass--and who is acting at Mass, that is, Jesus Christ--then we understand why this is the center of our Faith.
Any of the educators of our parishes, who are in our Catholic or public schools, will tell you, after all the studies and methods, what brings it all together in the mind and heart and soul of a child is still very much a mystery.
And when we set reason in the larger context of faith--which we do as Catholics--it's even more mysterious.
Just why did Peter and Andrew, James and John, drop everything and follow Jesus?
Was it a persuasive argument? A move of the heart? An impulse they couldn't explain? A miracle of grace? Or, maybe it was all that rolled together?
The lessons we teach, and the example we provide, and the choices we make, ultimately lead us here: to Jesus, the Light casting out gloom; to the One we abandon all to follow.