The following is a reflection offered to the staff of Yellowknife Catholic Schools as they gathered to celebrate World Catholic Education Day.
Greetings and peace be with you all as I share this brief message on the occasion of World Catholic Education Day.
Our theme for today’s celebration is “Hope for the World” From our readings for the Mass this past Sunday we received from the apostle Peter this injunction, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pt 3.15) As Catholic educators and support workers this is a particularly important task for us as we celebrate the gift of Catholic education.
We know in our hearts what makes our schools unique, we know for ourselves why we love teaching our kids and sharing with them the particular brand of education that we call Catholic. Are we ready and willing to take that knowledge and the feeling that we hold so deeply about Catholic schools, and to articulate and share that, so that other will come to know more about what makes Catholic Education such an important gift to our communities and are we able to do it in a way so that people will actually listen?
In our Gospel reading for today’s celebration Matthew (Matt 9.35-38) tells how Jesus shared the Good News everywhere he went and with everyone he met. The hope of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached about was not received by the people so much because of the words that Jesus spoke, but by the actions that accompanied those words. With great compassion, we are told, he healed the sick curing every disease. Healing the sick was one of things that people would point to and know that Jesus was worth listening to.
As Catholic educators we can talk in great depth about the importance of what we have to offer but what people will remember is not what we say but what do. So, what can we show them?
We can begin by showing others that we are people of faith. We believe in God and the greatest lesson we can teach our young people is to love God and to love our neighbor. From this all other lessons flow and without this anything we have say about Catholic education will fail to have any true meaning.
We need to let our students know that they are made in the image and likeness of God by how we teach and respond to them. By honoring their individuality and gifts and by helping them come to know and love their creator we imbue in them an understanding of their own great dignity that comes from being a part of the family of God. They will learn from us that their vocation as students is not just to become productive or to be successful but that they are called to be holy and to use the gift of their lives to their fullest potential for their own sake and for the good of all.
We do all this while striving to work together as a team which is greater than the sum of our individual contributions. We recognize that in the way we work together we reflect that, while we are all individuals, unique and precious in the eyes of God, we are motivated by a common purpose and united by a common bond which is the love of Christ. Our ambition is not served by competition but rather by the lifting up of the entire enterprise which is the building of the Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about.
If we can do this faithfully, persevering even when times are tough, like now in the midst of this crazy pandemic, people will not just hear what we say about Catholic schools because we are educators. They will know what we mean because by our lives we have become witnesses for that which we are talking about.
I am so grateful for the gift of Catholic education which I received as a student. I am privileged to have known many wonderful, faith-filled teachers who have inspired me for my whole life. As a priest and now as a Bishop I am blessed to be able to continue my relationship with Catholic education by working along side the teachers, support staff, students and families in Catholic schools across Canada and right here in Yellowknife. As we celebrate together this week for Catholic Education, I pray that God blesses you and gives you hope. I pray that the Lord Jesus inspire and encourages you and I pray that the Holy Spirit leads you with wisdom and patience for the good of our students, for the good of our community and for your own sanctification which you will find through this very special vocation.