Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Celebrating Sports, Spirituality and Catholic Schools Week 2018

Drive by your local Catholic grammar school and my guess is you will see banners and balloons, posters and promotional materials for the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States: Catholic Schools Week. Catholic schools typically observe this week with Masses, open houses, and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, school communities focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to Church, local communities and the nation. One should not underestimate what Catholic schools have given—spiritually, ethically, intellectually, physically (some great sports programs!) and even financially (based on the average public school/pupil cost of $11,066, Catholic schools provide more than $20 billion a year savings for the nation). Saint John Paul II affirmed this truth when he said to an audience of Catholic educators in New Orleans, "Yours is a great gift to the Church, a great gift to your nation." 
I have wonderful memories of this week from my time at St. Mary's Elementary School in Walnut Creek. I remember wondering why Carondelet, my high school didn't do more to honor this tradition. And, when I became a college student at the University of Notre Dame, an institution tremendously proud of its Catholic identity, Catholic Schools Week was in absentia. Why? I think this question is worth considering.

I believe Catholic education is one of the most vibrant and vital ministries of the Catholic Church. Our schools seek to inform, form and transform. This year, the motto highlights another truth: Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. These schools are serving nearly 1.9 million students—and that's just in elementary, middle and secondary schools. They educate students with special needs, non-Catholics (18.4% of the total enrollment) and have become increasingly more diverse. Their National Secondary School Graduation Rate is one to promote and celebrate: it's 99.3%.

But I believe one of the greatest gifts of our schools speaks to the relationship of Sports and Spirituality. Not all schools can form young hearts and minds with the Word. Not all schools can teach young people to love and serve God and their neighbor. They cultivate a life of prayer and service for the poor and marginalized—all of which can be done in the classroom as well as our athletic programs. And so, as I watched the Notre Dame men's basketball team visit St. Anthony of Padua school, I couldn't help but appreciate not only the surprise visit but the message behind it. 

Watch it here

One local Catholic school is visiting another.
One Catholic school—up the road—is ready to scrimmage with some kids.

Students at one Catholic school are visited by students of another Catholic school they might attend one day.
Both schools share a common tradition, a tradition worth celebrating
Both schools are places where young people: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. This is their week. ENJOY

Stats from Momentum, publication by the NCEA

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