Passing the faith to the next generation

The National Catholic Educational Association is convening in Boston April 13-16, bringing a year of centennial celebrations to a close. To the expected 15,000 Catholic educators landing in the Hub of the Universe, welcome!

We at The Pilot hope all those attending the convention find the array of liturgies, workshops and exhibitors both enriching and rejuvenating. The three keynote speakers — Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, Harvard professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston Father J. Brian Hehir — will surely inspire and challenge you in the effort to excel in your work under increasingly difficult circumstances.

The mission of the Church, Christ says, is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Throughout the ages, that command to announce the Gospel has been applied both in its literal sense — extending the message of God’s love to every nation and new land in the world — and also in its more figurative sense, spreading Christian values to every sphere of society. Simply by performing the corporal works of mercy — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and burying the dead — the Church established a frame work for social justice that permeated society and was later replicated by modern nations as they developed.

But the Church also teaches the spiritual works of mercy — counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead.

Most teachers would likely agree that instructing, admonishing, comforting, forgiving, bearing wrongs and praying are terms that accurately describe their mission as Catholic educators. Their often under-appreciated work has a profound impact on the lives of their students.

Society is increasingly hostile to religious beliefs that confront the prevailing cultural establishment. Oftentimes, the basic tenets of our faith are ignored, mocked or considered bigoted. The role of Catholic educators in passing those tenets on to the next generation is of the utmost importance in a moment when the moral principles that founded our nation are being shaken.

Throughout history, Catholic education has been the well from which so many leaders in our society have sprung. As we move forward, Catholic educators must continue the vital task of preparing a new generation academically while not failing to ensure that Catholic values — those that emanate from the works of mercy — are strongly instilled in students. This will give rise to a new generation that acts on its beliefs in every aspect of their lives, not in a way that is just nominally Catholic.

As the convention theme states, Catholic educators are charged with building a “faith-filled future.” Not a small task, but a critical one.