Congratulations to all our Catholic Schools as we begin Catholic Schools Week. The Catholic school is a very special instrument of evangelization and has been such since the inception of the Catholic school system. The prime purpose of the Catholic school is to evangelize. To prepare children and students of all ages to better understand their relationship to God and to each other is at the center of the work of the school.
In addition to instilling Catholic religious moral values and a good knowledge of the truths of faith, the Catholic school strives to have its students excel in academics and in the other fields that build a well-rounded education. Happily, our Catholic schools in South Carolina are doing an excellent job.
The mission to teach is given to the bishop as he leads us and guides us in his special ministry as a successor of the Apostles. Under his leadership and in union with him, our diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, our principals and our teachers share in his sacred mission.
Our teachers are called to bring souls to Christ. They are called to partake in the work of the teaching ministry of the bishop. This is a sacred and most important duty. Our teachers, administrators and staff assist those to whom God has given these children, their parents, the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith.
A parent has a noble and special calling from God to pass on the faith to the child and to lead that child in the ways of faith. During Catholic Schools Week, we applaud the efforts of our parents who make great sacrifices so that their children may be students at Catholic schools.
We salute the wonderful and dedicated teachers, administrators, and staff of all our Catholic schools for their important role in the education of our youth. We salute and thank the parishioners of the many parishes of this diocese for their assistance in maintaining the Catholic school system. We appreciate the countless number of hours given by parents, teachers and friends of the Catholic schools especially those bringing life and energy to the schools. We salute our parent-teacher organizations, school boards, clubs, coaches, volunteers in so many areas of education, and all who make the dream possible.
Our Catholic schools are not only first-class academic institutions; they are much more. They teach respect for one’s self and for all others. They teach about our relationship with almighty God. Bishop David B. Thompson and Bishop Robert J. Baker have both stressed the fact that our schools must have a strong Catholic identity. This cannot be overstated.
In recent meetings with principals, our superintendent Dr. Margaret Adams, and I have brought this fact to the forefront. Prayer must be an integral part of our Christian formation, especially in our Catholic schools. Each day is to begin and end with prayer. At noon-time, the Angelus Prayer should be said as well as grace before meals. Holy Mass should be available to students. I am very happy to see how many of our Catholic schools have weekly Mass.
Principals have been asked that each class have a large crucifix in the front of the room as well as a statue of our Blessed Mother or a picture of our Lady. The virtue of patriotism should be honored and an American Flag should be prominently displayed in the classroom and the assembly hall. The main assembly hall should also have a papal flag displayed. Although all of these items are externals, they signify what we believe and our loyalty to God, church and country. It is fitting that we have visible reminders of what we profess and love. It is certainly fitting that every Catholic school have a large photo of Pope John Paul II and Bishop Robert J. Baker.
As we learn, so shall we live. Good etiquette and manners are important aspects of a good education. Proper dress signifies the respect in which we hold ourselves and others. As we move forward during this week, we can be proud of our Catholic identity, our academic excellence, our community support, and financial stability. These items remain so very important to the success of our endeavors. We are not private schools, we are Catholic schools.
Congratulations to all our high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, kindergartens, and preschools. We thank God for our principals, teachers, staff, coaches, guidance counselors, school boards, P.T.O.’s, volunteers, and all who make our schools such fine institutions of education. We also thank our parents and our students for the excellence found in our Catholic schools. We are so very grateful to our bishop and our pastors for their energetic support for without them no Catholic school can achieve the goals we all seek. Thanks to the many donors and benefactors. And many thanks to Dr. Margaret Adams and her fine staff in the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools. Under her guidance, we have made great strides, and we are most grateful. May God continue to bless us all and may our Catholic schools ever lead our youth to better lives closer to Christ.