Dear Friends in Christ,
For the past 50 years, the Catholic Church throughout the USA has celebrated Catholic Schools Week at the end of January. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2024 is Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community. Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. My calendar has me scheduled for these opportunities at various schools in our diocese. I look forward to these events.
I am a graduate of Catholic elementary school, high school, college, seminary, and graduate school. I began discerning a vocation to the priesthood in high school. Many people are surprised to hear that my classmates facilitated that vocation as much as the priests, religious sisters, and lay men and women who were my teachers, counselors, or coaches. All of them supported me, and we all supported one another, both in and outside of the classroom.
It makes me think of the meaning of the theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2024; Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community. In my experience and in the experience of hundreds of Catholic school students in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, there is a real sense of community in our Catholic schools. They are places where young people can discover the real meaning of life which is lived out in all sorts of experiences of community; at home, at school, in the workplace, in the local community, and in the world.
All that is made possible because our Catholic schools are inspired by and promote Christian values which are based on the firm belief that every person is made in the image and likeness of God who is our Creator and Lord.
While helping each student to develop their unique, God-given personality and talents, our Catholic schools teach young people how to live in communion with God and with other persons, and to have a view of the world that needs to be enriched by art, music, theater, sports, and a thirst for knowledge about who we are and who we are to become through our faith.
I will be celebrating special Masses in various places during Catholic Schools Week. Please know that during that time I will be praying for all who are part of our Catholic Schools: United in Faith and Community!