Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of San Antonio, said a recent document by the Vatican could spark a resurgence of Catholic schools in the United States.
In a column published by the archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop recalled the long history of Catholic education in San Antonio dating back as far as the 1850s and 1860s, with the arrival of dedicated members of religious orders like the Marianist Brothers and the Ursuline Sisters.
The times have changed. Catholic education is now largely the work of lay people, who share the church’s teaching mission with a relatively small number of consecrated persons.
To address these challenges, the Vatican’s Congregation for Education issued a document last September called “Educating Together in Catholic Schools”, which the archbishop pointed out, addresses a crucial issue: “the need for all who work in Catholic schools to believe in their vocation as true teachers of the faith.”
Catholic teachers, whether lay or religious, follow in the footsteps of Christ…and share also in the mission that Christ gave to his church. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, (Mt 28:19-20)” he added.
“The new Vatican document,” Archbishop Gomez stressed, “talks about the need for ‘formation of the heart’.” What that means is that teachers need to cultivate a deep personal relationship with Christ through prayer, the reading of Scripture and participation in the sacraments.”
“It’s also essential for teachers to constantly be growing in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teachings,” he continued. “We can’t teach what we don’t know. So we must know and love Jesus and his church more and more.”
“No matter what subject they teach, teachers can bear witness to Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said. “They can help open students’ eyes to see Christ in their lives and in their world. They can help them to know Jesus as the Lord of history and the Lord of creation and as the source of all wisdom and happiness.”
“Love for Jesus,” he emphasized, “must always be matched by a deep commitment to being faithful to the truth of his Gospel. Our Lord has asked us to teach all that he commanded — not just a part of it, not just our own interpretations of his teaching. Teachers, then, have a duty both to know all that the church teaches and to transmit it faithfully to their students.”
“Using the words of this new document, let us pray that they become true ‘schools of faith,’ in which hearts are formed for the Gospel, so ‘there will arise a generation of new persons, the molders of a new humanity’,” the archbishop said in conclusion.