By David Cooley.
Education is a ministry of the Catholic Church because there is an undeniable thread between the general pursuit of knowledge and the journey of understanding who we are in the universe. We cannot come to fully know ourselves and the world around us unless we come to know the Creator of all things.
The goal of education is not to get into the best university or to be successful at a desired career. The goal is not even for an individual to ultimately obtain his or her financial freedom. It is so much deeper than that. Education is good for its own sake. There is something innate in us that makes us want to find the truth.
And the Truth is a person. It is not enough for us to just be financially free, we long to be completely free. And we will only be completely free when we come to know, love, and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is a foundation that is missing in secular education, and it is one of the many reasons why Catholic schools are so important.
Education cannot and should not only be an intellectual exercise. Not only must the intellect be formed, but the will must be formed as well. This is why Catholic schools put such an emphasis on a complete formation of the human person. Human beings are intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional, and social beings. We long for communion with each other and with God.
We are made for so much more than a career. We are made for God, and we are restless until we understand this and give over our lives, which are a complete gift, back to God. Learning about God must be part of a student’s education; however, Catholic schools are designed to not only be a place where we learn about God, but, more importantly, to be a place where we can encounter and grow in our relationship with Him.
To know about Jesus is to love him, and to love him is to serve him. Only on this path can we truly learn to know and love ourselves, and to love and serve our neighbors.
Our Catholic schools can and do prepare students for college and the work force, but they go way beyond that. Our Catholic schools do form good citizens that will contribute in a positive way to society, but that is just a happy accident. Our Catholic schools have great athletes, but they are more concerned with forming disciples of Christ and future saints than anything else. Now is the perfect time for all of us to double down on our faith, be bold and proud Catholics, and let our children know that it is way more important for them to get into Heaven than it is for them to get into Harvard.
David Cooley is co-director of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, Diocese of Covington, Ky.