It is time once again to thank those wonderful parents who sacrifice so much to enroll their sons and daughters in Catholic schools. It is time once again to thank, support and encourage all school administrators, faculties and staffs not only for their academic and customer service gifts and talents, but perhaps even more importantly, for their modeling of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI called Catholic educators "bearers of wisdom." During his visit to the United States in April 2008, the pope reminded all of us that education is integral to the mission of the Church. It is the obligation of all members of a Catholic School community to proclaim the Good News.
In partnership with the spiritual guidance that parents provide to their children, Catholic Schools are a place for all children, faculties and staffs to encounter the living and loving God. This cooperation hopefully makes the Gospel message so strong and alive that families continue to pray together in Church communities.
It's no secret that Catholic Schools across this great country have been weathering difficult times. Some of you may have been at the beaches in New Jersey and seen a plane flying with a banner that had three words advertising our Catholic Schools in New Jersey. These three words were "character, confidence and compassion."
With these three words our archdiocesan elementary and secondary schools develop the whole person. In the Catholic education model, young minds, hearts and spirits learn to become people of fine character; people who understand right from wrong, to love others as Jesus taught.
Most children today need to become confident human beings who can add greatly to today's complex society. Children have so many choices that our spiritually based environments can give children confidence in who they are, and in a belief and trust that with hard work all things are possible.
Lastly, in our Catholic Schools children learn compassion. Our children learn how to celebrate differences and respect those not so fortunate by looking kindly upon and actively supporting charitable activities.
With this in mind, once again the archdiocese has some new schools opening this fall. These are the result of identifying places where, in order to provide the very best in educational and spiritual competencies, mergers had to take place.
There is the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy located in Elizabeth; the new Padre Pio Academy in Hackensack and the new Mater Dei Academy in Kearny. These schools have wonderful upgraded curricula that will better enhance the learning environment in these faith-based communities.
In addition, all five Catholic dioceses in the Garden State, under the direction of the Trentonbased New Jersey Catholic Conference, are forming a "Clergy Blue Ribbon Commission." The purpose of this commission will be to have clergy who are supportive of Catholic education to come together about twice a year to dialogue and converse about ways to invite other parish priests to become involved in expanding the vision for the continuation of Catholic education both at the elementary and secondary level.
This commission also will assist in future funding and marketing concepts and ideas as we continue to foster the educational mission of our Church. It is our hope that this commission will assist us in attempting to increase the support of all priests, Brothers and Sisters within our NJ dioceses.
In partnership with the archdiocesan Catechetical Office, conversations will be taking place to encourage parish catechetical leaders to support and market not only religious education programs, but also the parish Catholic School. It is the hope of the archdiocese that parish catechetical leaders and school principals work together to bring the very best in religious education, spiritual development and liturgical experiences to all families enrolled in the Catholic Schools.
Pope Benedict XVI in his third encyclical titled Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) reminds each of us that Jesus Christ is "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. His Holiness continues in saying that truth is necessary for development. With it, he says, "the social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation."
Pope Benedict dwells upon two "criteria that govern moral action" that come from the "charity in truth" principal: justice and the common good. Every Christian is called to love through an "institutional path" which has an incidence on the life of the polis, of life in society. The Church, he insists, "does not have technical solutions to offer"; however, she has "a mission of truth to accomplish" for "a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation."
These powerful words affirm what every administrator and faculty member ministering in our Catholic schools attempt to do. The principal, as the spiritual leader, needs to focus not only on strong academic programming, but on curriculum that teaches our faith in all disciplines.
Our Catholic school communities need to refresh and enhance the spiritual development of faculty and parents. Perhaps most important is that our parents support the mission of our Catholic schools and realize that their sacrifice today can bear great fruit in the future of their children.
(Editor's note: Msgr. Kevin M. Hanbury, Ed.D., is the vicar of education and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Newark.)