Magazine article Momentum

Mission Possible: The Not-So-Secret Mission of Catholic Schools

Magazine article Momentum

Mission Possible: The Not-So-Secret Mission of Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

WHENEVER A DISCUSSION TURNS TO "MISSION ? I ZONE OUT FOR A MINUTE and I immediately play an internal soundtrack: "Good morning, Mr. King. Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it..." Seconds later, my mind fills with the image of a cassette tape melting into a puff of smoke. (No doubt I watched too much TV as a child raised in the '70s.)

When we talk about Catholic schools, that sense of adventure and drama diminishes. But the mission and the vital need to fulfill it remains. After the spine-tingling, "Your mission, if you choose to accept it" plays, what comes next? What's on the rest of that taped message? What is a Catholic school's mission?

Our Mission - the Message Unfolds

Catholic schools are varied and locally unique. They serve the homegrown needs of their particular community. It doesn't matter if the school is an academy, a center for the arts, or a 21st century learning school, every Catholic school's mission is based on two things: faith development and academic excellence.

Ensuring the outstanding academic development of students is at the core of every Catholic school, and schools must do everything possible to take students from where they are to that next level of excellence. However, if this were all Catholic education was about, what would be the point in having a Catholic school? After all, there are many quality schools in the United States. Catholic schools are about building the faith lives of students and giving them the tools and knowledge to understand that faith.

The mission of Catholic schools is to help others live lives in which they know, love, and serve God. Don't we teach students academics so they will have the knowledge and skills to serve God and help others - whether as engineers, authors, mechanics, or artists?

The Formal Approach to Mission

Building faith-filled lives involves more than providing Mass on Fridays or the Stations of the Cross during Lent. It is a commitment to the primary reason for having a school. Catholic school leaders are challenged to put conscious time and effort into a wide variety of faith development activities. They must plan the formal and informal work of developing the school community's faith life.

Catholic schools will always need formal programs as the backbone of our work in catechesis and faith formation. While few of these formal staples are going to be new practices to anyone, it's important to look at them with new eyes and seek ways to keep them vibrant and life-forming for the community.

Religion classes for every grade with trained Catholic teachers are a staple. Having teachers who are not only catechetically trained but personally excited about their faith life also makes a huge difference. If your staff does not fit those criteria, rearrange teacher schedules to have faith-filled teachers covering religion classes in place of other subjects. Principals also need to recall that faith life is a valid hiring consideration at a Catholic school.

Having regular access to the sacraments is also important. Frequent opportunities for Reconciliation and understanding our Catholic perspective of failing and grace are important for inspiring the faith. Masses are great faith-building moments, in addition to their priceless sacramental value. Build community by encouraging parents and other community members to come and join your Masses. Of course, the liturgy is a perfect way to introduce students to the various forms of Mass participation that can last a lifetime: altar servers, lectors, ushers, and even sacristans and Eucharistic ministers.

Contemporary Christian music is so vibrant and similar to today's pop music. Students find it energizing when they are able to turn on the radio or Pandora and listen to the same songs they were singing at Mass. Use music to engage students. If the music does not captivate you personally, it's important to be aware of its potential impact on the faith life of students. …

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