The challenge Good Friday presents

Every six weeks or so, requests for emergency scholarship assistance are reviewed at the Catholic Schools Foundation. These requests are made on behalf of families facing extraordinary and sudden negative situations: death, serious illness, violence, and homelessness are a few regular themes. Thanks to the generous donors of the Catholic Schools Foundation, CSF is helping keep these students in the stable, loving, and supportive environment of their Catholic school at a time of crisis.

Live long enough, and we all face loss, pain, suffering, feelings of betrayal, and isolation. The good news is we will have lived long enough to experience these things! The bad news is that these things are hard. Some of us will suffer more than others in life by virtue of the place and circumstance of our birth, genetic predispositions, or by virtue of being in a certain moment at a certain time. Regardless of where someone is in life, suffering and pain are universal experiences and we are reminded of this on Good Friday.

Good Friday is a moment to recall the person of Jesus: an historical figure who endured the relatable experience of suffering. We imagine Christ being stripped of his clothes and his dignity as he is forced to endure the pain and humiliation of his passion. Imagining another human, one we know loves us beyond words, alone and in pain, is a powerful and important exercise. Many of us do not have to imagine what this is like, having experienced people we love suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It can be a feeling of helplessness and, at times, hopelessness. This is the very reason that we must not dwell on Good Friday and instead move forward toward the joy of Easter and the hope of the Resurrection.

The pain and suffering of Christ should cause us to feel for this man who endured so much for us. This should be a reminder to move forward with empathy for all our brothers and sisters who suffer, and from empathy move to action, to feel a responsibility for our fellow person.

It is one thing to work to understand the challenges of others; it is wholly another to act. It is easy to put up a lawn sign extolling some virtue or put on a bracelet supporting a cause. It is much harder to walk with a person and truly give of yourself. This is the challenge Good Friday presents: to move to action in the hope of the Resurrection.

At the Catholic Schools Foundation, we witness acts of compassion every day. Teachers sit with students who have experienced violence, homelessness, or depression. Our school communities care for students struggling to find their place in this world and who are in need of an anchoring love in their lives. Catholic schools are a sure and certain sign of the hope of the Resurrection!

We also witness great generosity from people who share a belief that Catholic schools change lives. At our Annual Dinner on April 11, we will honor Rick Henken. Rick is of the Jewish faith and is one of the most ardent supporters of Catholic education. Rick knows God is present in these schools. He knows that teachers meet students where they are and bring them to a place of being known and loved by God while receiving an excellent education. This is not about a shared faith tradition; this is about a belief that through God anything is possible.

Benefactors of the Catholic Schools Foundation, like Rick, give thousands of students each year a sense of hope and joy that would otherwise not be possible. As we move from the pain of Good Friday into the joy of Easter, I invite you to take action and make a difference by attending or supporting the Catholic Schools Foundation Annual Dinner Celebration on April 11, 2024. Together, we can change lives and help move students and families forward in the joy of the Easter Season.

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