The challenge to live the Gospel

Sitting in silence at St. Anthony Shrine on Arch Street after receiving my ashes, these words came to my mind, "Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return" (Gen. 3:19). As a child, I recall the priest uttering these words, as a cross was traced in ash across my forehead. I began to think about the extraordinary gift of life and its finite nature. Returning from the memories of my childhood, I reflected on what was said to me by the friar who shaped a cross in ash on my forehead. "Repent and turn to the Gospel." This was no reminder; this was a challenge!

Days are busy with family, work, social, and civic obligations. Our phones and devices are constantly buzzing and chirping, each new alert an immediate priority on a never-ending loop of activity. We are seemingly non-stop and always on, but are we present? Are we checking boxes or are we engaged? Is every priority equal or just another task to be accomplished? What are our priorities? How are we prioritizing the Gospel?

As soon as you walk back onto the street from Arch Street Shrine, you are confronted with these questions. Do we put our head down and plow past the homeless men and women on the street, pretend to be on a call or stare mindlessly at our phone as if doing something of great importance? Do we ignore our brothers and sisters on the street, while being observant to the tradition of receiving ashes and the rules of fast and abstinence? Are we checking the box, but not living the challenge to "turn to the Gospel?"

The Gospel is a challenge; it is radical, and truly embracing Christ's message is hard!

Fortunately, there are many examples around us of people who do this humbly and quietly each day. In the world of Catholic education, teachers, principals, and school staff meet children each day as they are, and see them as gifts from God and guide them through the challenges of life with love and compassion. These children are not obstacles to getting to the end of the day; they are the reason Catholic schools exist -- and they are treated that way. These children come to school feeling loved, safe and that they can and will succeed. This happens because of the people who commit their lives to Catholic education and, in many cases, benefactors who share their resources to give young people an opportunity to receive a life-changing Catholic education. Catholic educators turn towards the Gospel each day and bring many students and families with them.

For many families, a Catholic education is not possible without a scholarship. The typical profile of a scholarship recipient at the Catholic Schools Foundation (CSF) is a single parent with two or three children who qualifies for federal assistance. Students with this profile benefit tremendously from the stability, values, and community present in a Catholic school but it is out of reach without help. In generations before, help came in the form of the religious sisters, brothers, and priests who staffed schools, and robust parishes that further subsidized the cost of education. In large part, this no longer exists, but others have stepped forward to pick up this mantle. They have stepped forward and answered the challenge to turn to the Gospel!

One in 10 children in the Archdiocese of Boston receives scholarship support from CSF. This is not possible without benefactors who believe in this work, provide financial support, and introduce others to this life-changing work. People like Renee and Mike Minogue who, despite having extraordinary family and business commitments, take the time to respond to the challenge laid out on Ash Wednesday to "repent and turn to the Gospel." They aren't just going through the motions, they are answering the challenge and have prioritized the Gospel in their lives on many levels and most recently by agreeing to chair our 34th Annual Building Minds Scholarship Fund Gala on April 11, 2024. When asked, they responded with a resounding yes because they know that sharing the hope and joy of the Gospel with young people, along with a high-quality education, is truly transformational.

Ash Wednesday and Lent is an opportunity to reflect on our mortality, Christ's sacrifice for us and, most of all, it is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to live the Gospel!

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