During times of crisis the mission, ministry and celebration of Catholic Schools is unchanged

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

On the feast of St. Blaise, patron of throat illnesses, and in the midst of a week filled with gratitude and fun, Bishop Roger Foys celebrated an all-schools Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington in honor of the 47th annual Catholic Schools Week. Each of the diocesan schools celebrates the week with different festivities, including crazy socks, dressing like teachers and rock-paper-scissors tournaments. They all came together in the middle of the week to recognize the most important aspect of their schools — the Catholic faith.

The theme for Catholic Schools week is “Faith. Excellence. Service.” Bishop Foys, in his homily, emphasized faith as the primary foundation for education. “This week was established as a time to promote Catholic schools, but also, and maybe more importantly, to celebrate Catholic schools and what Catholic schools mean to us — to us as the Church, but also to the wider community,” he said.
“Catholic schools were founded in this country for the basic purpose of transmitting the faith. That’s something that we can never lose sight of. Number one, always number one, is faith.”

He addressed the students watching from their classrooms with a call for open hearts so that the faith can take root. “Faith is the primary purpose for our schools. All those watching who are sitting in a classroom now, that is what the primary purpose of your being there is, to transmit the faith to you, so that you will transmit that faith to your family, and their family and their family.”

The Gospel reading, Bishop Foys said, focused on the importance of faith and its transformative effect. Jesus, he said, had been to many cities, performing many miracles and attracting many followers. When he came back to his hometown, he was amazed by the lack of faith the people there had.

Bishop Roger Foys delivers his homily during the Catholic Schools Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington on Feb. 3.

“He went home and they had no faith in him. Their faith was so weak, or nonexistent, that Jesus could not even work any miracles there. Faith is so important. Parents, administrators, faculty, staff and students need to be open to the faith so that it can take root and produce excellence — which leads to service.”

“Service,” Bishop Foys said, “is the giving of ourselves, freely, willingly, generously. Faith. Excellence. Service. The hallmarks of a Catholic school education.”

To the students, Bishop Foys said, “Your parents, because they love you, want to impart the faith to you. You are the future; you are also the present. Your role in the present is to be open to the faith, the faith that you heard about first of all by the example of others … You will be also called to be that example, to be that witness to others by sharing what you learn, by sharing your faith, by your excellence and your service.”

The pandemic, Bishop Foys said, has required many changes this school year. Teachers and students have had to teach and learn not only in the classroom but also remotely via live stream. Parents have had to make the additional sacrifice of assisting their child during times of remote learning. Everyone has had to monitor their health and many endure quarantines to keep the school community and each other safe and healthy. But, through it all, the mission and ministry of Catholic schools has not changed.

“Our Catholic schools have not changed because the faith has not changed,” Bishop Foys said. “If we are rooted in the faith, crisis such as this will make us even stronger in the faith because they will bring us together. It is only our faith that can sustain us in any crisis. It is in looking to the Lord and holding onto our faith that we can make a difference; that we can accept whatever comes.”

“The faith,” Bishop Foys said, “is what sustains us. The faith is what keeps us safe. The faith is what gives us hope.”

Bishop Foys ended his homily in gratitude for all those whose sacrifices make a Catholic school education a reality for families — benefactors, teachers, staff and administrators — offering a special word of thanks to Kendra McGuire, superintendent, Catholic Schools, for her leadership during this unprecedented time.

“Your leadership, especially during this pandemic, has been more than exemplary. It has been remarkable,” he said.

To the parents, he offered profound gratitude and admiration for providing their children “the great gift” of a Catholic school education and encouraged students to appreciate that gift.

“Thank you for loving your sons and daughters enough to provide them with a Catholic school education … Thank you for sharing your faith, for passing it on to the next generation,” he said. “To all our students, appreciate the great gift you have — to be a student in a Catholic school, and use this time profitably … because what you learn now will sustain you the rest of your life. Hold on especially to the faith — trust in the Lord.”

Kendra McGuire, superintendent, Office of Catholic Schools, addresses the school community with gratitude for everyone’s hard work and an exhortation to stay focused on Jesus Christ.

Bishop Foys concluded Mass with the blessing of St. Blaise and a blessing with a relic of St. Rocco, protector against pandemics.

Mrs. McGuire addressed those gathered and those watching on the live stream after Mass. She said: “It is so important to stop and really think about this gift of Catholic education. Giving thanks is often one of the first things we do during this week. We are so appreciative of … all those who support our schools, as they are truly a blessing and we need them in order to thrive.”

She encouraged everyone listening to think of why Catholic schools exist. “It is because of Jesus,” she said. “Jesus is the first teacher of the faith and through faithful service to him, we as his disciples carry on this ministry of educating others.”

To the students, Mrs. McGuire said, “You are learning to be Jesus’ disciples, who will one day graduate and hopefully continue spreading this message to the world in your adult lives. This is the mission of Catholic education. It is such a special gift to each and every one of us.”