Inside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame University
Last week I had the opportunity to be present at a workshop specifically designed for pastors who have a Catholic school in their parish. The School Pastors’ Institute (SPI) was held at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Over one hundred priests attended, four coming from our Diocese of Camden. Our diocesan priests attended at the request of Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
There were some exceptional speakers during the week covering topics like the relationship of the pastor and the principal, funding Catholic schools, the mission and “Catholic” identity of a Catholic school, school tuition vouchers, multiculturalism in the schools—just to identify some of the various issues being discussed during the conferences.
I was particularly impressed by the two bishops presenting at the conference: Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California and Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Both bishops showed tremendous support for and expounded on the value of Catholic schools in our contemporary society. By the end of the week I was once again convinced that Catholic schools are as relevant today as when people like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann worked to establish them earlier in the history of this nation.
Why should we support our Catholic schools—in particular, St. Joseph Regional School? Is it because of the excellent education? Is it for the discipline? Is it because of the morals and values instilled? Is it because of the “family” atmosphere?
Yes, and . . .
Most importantly, it is the simple fact that we, as Catholics, are commanded to pass on our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . .” (Mt. 28: 19) We need to make disciples. A Catholic education is an education of the whole person—body, mind and soul/spirit. We can pray and worship, teach and study the faith, put our faith into action (service) and freely incorporate our belief in Jesus Christ into each and every part of the educational day. We can form people to be “Christ-like.” Admittedly, no Catholic school is perfect because they involve imperfect human beings at the various levels. However, I know of no better way for a person/family to be formed, supported and educated in their Catholic faith—to be made disciples—than by a Catholic school true to its mission and identity.
While at Notre Dame, I saw how each dorm had a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament present throughout the academic year. A priest lives in the dorms with the students. There is a seminary forming future priests on campus. All around the campus are the many reminders of everything Catholic—from the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes (where people were constantly at prayer), to the various religious statues, paintings and stained-glass windows, to the magnificent basilica at the heart of the campus. (There is also the famous “Touchdown Jesus” on the library building facing the football stadium.)
While many may follow the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame because of their renowned football team, deep down it is the Catholic education and spiritual formation offered there and at any Catholic school that can leave the lasting legacy on any person.
After all, our true “goal” in life is to get into heaven.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
(P.S., I got to touch the Play Like a Champion Today sign in the locker room!)
The Word of Life by Millard Sheets
Commonly referred to as "Touchdown Jesus"