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Doing the extraordinary in ordinary times

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This last year, Catholic Schools truly met the needs of students and families, especially at-risk and low-income families. The schools did not do this for praise, but because this is what they are called to do every day in ordinary times.

Michael
Reardon

As the world returns to a new normal, it will be a challenge for all of us to learn from the extraordinary times through which we have lived. In many ways, the liturgical calendar is a model for how to respond. In fact, it is in Ordinary Time that we are all challenged to be extraordinary.

For more than a year, there was nothing ordinary about the state of our world. The beauty of such times is that it brings a great clarity and focus of purpose. Extraordinary times highlight our greatest needs, successes, and opportunities. In Catholic schools, it demonstrated the commitment of putting children first with in-person learning all year and the unwavering dedication of teachers and administrators who view their work as a calling. These remarkable people see every child as being made in the image and likeness of God and worthy of love and a first-class, high-quality education that is shaped by the Gospel. This was always true, but it was even more deeply affirmed this past year. Now, as we move from extraordinary to ordinary, our schools and educations will continue to be deliberate about this intention.

After Pentecost, as the Church moves into a long stretch of Ordinary Time, it is easy to fall into a rut and feel as if nothing is of any significance. This is when I love to reflect on St. Paul's letters, as he moves from his conversion to engaging with people in ordinary times. At the center of his letters is a belief in the resurrection and a desire to share the example of Jesus Christ. These are the same things at the heart of Catholic schools today. In ordinary times, we must continue to reflect on the extraordinary. There is nothing more extraordinary than the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It is also vital to remember that Jesus lived for others. It was never about Him. Jesus "came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). In a similar way, Paul challenged the people of Philippi, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3-4). We must not lose sight of Christ's example of humility and sacrifice.

This last year, Catholic Schools truly met the needs of students and families, especially at-risk and low-income families. The schools did not do this for praise, but because this is what they are called to do every day in ordinary times. School leaders and teachers put the interest of others ahead of themselves and will continue to do this moving forward but without the attention and accolades received over this past year. It was for this exact reason that the Catholic Schools Foundation was proud to present the Catholic School teachers of the Archdiocese of Boston with this year's Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award. The humility and graciousness in which the educators accepted the award is only further evidence of how truly it was deserved.

As we look towards the start of the school year, the hope is that we will continue to see a return to normal, but we must not lose that sense of the extraordinary. Lives are positively changed daily in Catholic schools through high-quality teaching and the example of committed teachers grounded in Gospel values. This is anything but ordinary.

Last year, many reached out in support of Catholic schools because of the example set by their children-first approach to the COVID crisis. These donors saw how, in extraordinary times, Catholic schools put children first and wanted to support these efforts. This support made a remarkable difference. This same approach to serving students and families will continue moving forward, and the support of many is still needed to make this possible. Catholic schools are changing lives. Catholic education changes communities. Catholic schools do the extraordinary even in ordinary times and need the support of all of us to thrive.

- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.



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