Handing down the faith through Catholic schools

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Each January we highlight and celebrate the great work and ministry of Catholic schools. We are blessed in the Archdiocese of Anchorage to have four Catholic schools within the archdiocesan school system: Lumen Christi (7-12th grade) in Anchorage, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (pre-K-6th grade), Our Lady of the Valley (pre-K-8th grade) in Wasilla, and St. Mary’s in Kodiak (pre-K-8th grade).

Catholic parents take on a great responsibility when they bring children into the world. One of the greatest is to pass on the Catholic faith. This is done primarily through their example of regularly practicing the faith and introducing their children into the sacramental life of the church. Other than the faith practice of the family, I can think of no better way to pass on the faith to our children than by enrolling them in a Catholic school.

In a world filled with ideas and values that run counter to the Gospel, a child in Catholic school is immersed in a respectful atmosphere of values and practices that form each student to reach their fullest human potential and to become an active member of the church and the broader community.

Beyond an excellent academic education, our Catholic schools provide students with a worldview centered in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our schools provide students with the skills and desire to live justly and value service to others before self. The education and formation of students are rooted in values and virtues which give them the confidence to face life’s challenges. The foundation of Catholic education is Jesus Christ, and the understanding that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God.

What parent does not want the best for their child and the child’s future? Our Catholic schools provide a safe environment, devoted faculty, staff and volunteers, solid curriculum, and service opportunities and extracurricular activities that, when combined, create an environment that allows a child to thrive and grow in knowledge and self-esteem.

Catholic education is transformative. Graduates of Catholic schools have a long history of leadership in the church and beyond. Catholic education teaches students to be critical thinkers, and it instills a moral and ethical structure which allows children to become the person God created them to be. It allows them to flourish in human dignity and decency, which naturally tends towards leadership in every professional field of life and work.

Graduates of Catholic schools typically do not settle for the mediocre, or the passing things of this life, but rather strive for excellence with an eye always towards the Kingdom of God. Thus, they give soul and purpose to this world as they work out their own salvation in their efforts to make this world a better place for their brothers and sisters.

I fear that too many parents believe they cannot afford a Catholic education for their children, and thus never even take the opportunity to walk into one of our Catholic schools to discuss what is possible for their children.

Parents, you are not the only ones who want what is best for your child. We do too! Please take time this month to visit with the principal of the Catholic school nearest you. You will be surprised by what we offer. Come and see, and you just may discover an even brighter future for your child!

Come and join one of the longest traditions and greatest gifts of our Catholic faith. Catholic schools are for everyone.

The writer is Archbishop of Anchorage.

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