Catholic Schools Week 2022 will begin on Sunday with liturgical celebrations and school open houses. This year's theme of "Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service." embodies values that are at the heart of every Catholic school. As the week is celebrated across the country, many schools will bring the missions into their celebrations of their Catholic identity, and rightly so. Learning to pray and sacrifice for the spread of the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it is a vital part of our Catholic faith.
Some schools are incorporating the theme of "Children Helping Children" -- our motto -- into their open houses with displays or decorations. Others are hosting a mission visit this week. Still others will have a mission-themed prayer service or classroom activity all designed to remind students that their faith calls them to serve those often forgotten in our world, the children of the missions.
Because Missionary Childhood (MCA) is a Pontifical Society, it is Pope Francis who has entrusted us with the responsibility of assisting schools, parishes, and parents in the formation of children as missionary disciples. Through their active membership, children learn about the lives of their peers in the missions and join in prayer and sacrifice for them. They respond to the Holy Father's call to reach out to children in need on the peripheries of society with the Good News of Jesus. Our local contact with schools and parishes helps our students put a name to the faces of those children.
Blenda is the name of the little one pictured above. We met when I visited some of our Ugandan mission projects. She was seven years old and attended the Mushanga Parish School in the Archdiocese of Mbarara. Blenda was a bright and curious girl, always ready to step forward and show she could keep up with the older students. During my visit to her Catholic school, the upper grades sang and danced for me. Blenda always seemed to make her way to the middle of the stage and knew all the routines!
Blenda's school receives support from the Missionary Childhood Association: classroom materials, food supplies, and faith formation are provided to all. The students are also active members in MCA. Although they are monetarily poor and most of their parents are subsistence farmers, the children at the Mushanga Parish School are praying and sacrificing so that one day, all the children of the world will have the opportunity to grow in "Faith. Excellence. Service." as they are, because they are blessed to attend a Catholic school!
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.