A Message from our Rector, Reverend Monsignor Perry J. Kavookjian
What does it mean to be a “Catholic” school?
Does it mean that a particular school happens to offer some classes in Catholic Theology? Does it mean that there is a Catholic Chapel on campus where students and faculty occasionally come to pray? Is a “Catholic” school one that professes to be Roman Catholic in its mission statement?
While these questions, answered in the affirmative, are contributing factors in defining what it means to be a “Catholic” school, more is required.
In fact, a “Catholic” school is an extension of the Universal Church which has as its mission to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In every way, a school that is truly Catholic is not afraid to preach the Gospel and to form its students with Gospel values in every aspect of life. This Gospel is proclaimed, not only in Theology classes, but in all academic classes. The Gospel is proclaimed on the football field, basketball court, and athletic program. The Gospel is proclaimed at school dances, faculty meetings and other social events. A Catholic school promotes the living of the Gospel in all areas of life. This is the responsibility not only of Catholic faculty and students but of non-Catholic faculty and students as well. While a Catholic school may employ non-Catholic faculty and accept non-Catholic students, its mission remains uniquely Catholic and, as such, all agree to adhere to the basic principles of Catholic teaching.
What are some defining characteristics of a Catholic school?
In a wonderful little publication entitled, “The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools” the Vatican lays out five essential “marks” of Catholic schools:
Inspired by a supernatural vision. That is, educators must have a view of education which goes beyond simply forming young people academically so that they can get into the best universities or achieve the most successful careers. Rather, a supernatural vision looks to the ultimate goal of a Catholic education: to prepare young people to live as God’s children and to achieve salvation. Helping our young people get into Heaven is our primary goal!
Founded on a Christian Anthropology. Simply put, Catholic educators understand that the students in their charge are first and foremost, children of God. As children of God, each student is created in the image of God and has at his/her center of being, the person of Christ Jesus. This Christian understanding of each person is founded on the belief that God took flesh in the person of Jesus thereby sanctifying and redeeming every member of the human family. In a Catholic school, each student is afforded the dignity of being a unique creation of God. No student is left out or thought to be “less than” or “better than” any other.
Animated by Communion and Community. Rather than celebrate a secular individualism that is so prominent in our society, a Catholic school stresses that each person is part of a larger whole. A Catholic school is a faith community—not simply a place where individuals go to get an education. Such a vision requires collaboration among faculty, teamwork among students and a healthy interaction between faculty and students. In this kind of community environment, each faculty member, each student and each family unit are considered essential to the well-being of the entire school and are interdependent.
Imbued with a Catholic Worldview Throughout its Curriculum. In a Catholic school, the Gospel is proclaimed in every discipline. Teachers are responsible for making certain that Christian values and a Christian lifestyle are encouraged no matter what discipline he or she may teach. This means that the Catholic school understands that each discipline contributes to the well-being of the entire student. Faith, science, art, physical education, etc are not compartmentalized disciplines. They are interrelated in that each addresses some aspect of the student’s formation and contributes to the well-being of the whole person. What results from this kind of mind-body-spirit formation is a young person who has been prepared in every aspect of his/her life to live out the Gospel in their future careers and vocational choices.
Sustained by Gospel Witness. Teachers and administrators teach, not only by words and classroom instruction, but by the example of their lives. Young people are still in the process of being formed and are given to following the lead of others. The lived example of the teacher, therefore, can have an advantageous or adverse effect on the student. Young people are quick to see hypocrisy if the examples of their educators do not match their words or do not line up with the mission statement of the school. In a special way, teachers who live according to Gospel values introduce their students to the person of Christ himself. Additionally, students themselves are challenged to give witness to Gospels values both on campus and off campus.
While all these factors play an essential role in identifying a school as “Catholic” it is the primary responsibility of parents to imbue their children with Gospel values. Parents are the primary educators of their children in the way of faith. Simply sending a child to a Catholic school does not insure that a child will learn to live out his/her Catholic faith. The life of faith must begin at home. As such, a Catholic school can only work together with parents to create a formation program for its young people.
If you would like a copy of “The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools” or if you would like to contact me with your thoughts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless Garces Memorial High School!
Msgr. Perry Kavookjian