September 2022 - Catholic schools: a place to encounter the Divine Teacher
A new school year is upon us. In my brief life as a priest, I have been blessed to serve in two assignments with parochial schools. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the classrooms in them.
Perhaps my love for Catholic schools stems from my own experience attending a Catholic parochial school, high school, and college, followed by seminary formation. All in all, I am the product of over 22 years of Catholic education! My own experience of Catholic education, beginning at a very young age, no doubt contributed to me discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
As I reflect back on my years in Catholic schools, beautiful memories and important figures come to mind. Each time I walk into a classroom as a priest, I cannot help but think of Father Ron Labarre, my childhood pastor, who would frequently visit our classrooms at St. James School in Biddeford and celebrate Mass. I remember Mrs. Levesque, my favorite elementary school teacher, who would put up with 25 third graders with the patience of a saint. Father George Collins, SJ, taught sophomore theology and served as a role model to me as a Cheverus High School student. Each in their own way, these individuals — and countless others — helped to pass on their own faith to me and my classmates.
Catholic education is really about faith and evangelization. Speaking to Catholic educators in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.” When young people are educated in the faith, their souls are also nurtured. They encounter Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd and Divine Teacher.
Our Catholic schools offer much more than simply a values-based education or a private-school alternative to public education. Catholic schools, from elementary to high school to college, serve as places of formation where students encounter Jesus Christ. Parents and families sacrifice much to send their children to Catholic schools because they recognize the importance of passing on faith and of a solid education. Students are taught by teachers who genuinely love their students and are themselves striving to grow in holiness.
St. John Paul II wrote that “by virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children.” Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs help to empower parents to be the primary educators of their children. By working with parents to educate their children and pass on the Catholic faith, Catholic schools help to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Father Alexander R. Boucher is a parochial vicar of St. John Paul II Parish in Scarborough.