During National Appreciation Day For Catholic Schools on Feb. 2, more than 175 students, principals and Catholic educational leaders visited every congressional office on Capitol Hill to promote the "good news" of Catholic education. This was one of the largest delegations and largest numbers of office visits since National Appreciation Day became part of Catholic Schools Week in 1990.
Before heading off to visit congressional offices, the assembled students heard from Father Daniel Coughlin, chaplain of the U S. House of Representatives, and Congressman Christopher Smith of the fourth congressional district of New Jersey.
Father Coughlin, the first Catholic chaplain since the position was established in 1774, told of the many members of Congress whose faith brought them to government service. "Politics can be a ministry," he said. "You can make a difference in the prevailing culture." He told the students that government has a "need for creative ideas, born out of what Catholics see as a world vision. When you talk about your Catholic faith you are bringing light" to associates.
Congressman Smith came to Congress in 1981 when he was 27 years old and has served continuously since then. Both he and his wife are graduates of Catholic schools, and their children attended Catholic schools in northern Virginia. He reminded students of the values taught in Catholic schools, particularly the concern for the less fortunate. "It is implanted in the Scripture, in the published dogma: 'whatever you do for the least of my brethren....'" Many members of government are "driven by their faith. They want to do right," he said.
The student delegations provided a background package on Catholic schools to every congressional office. …