My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
As we prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, allow me to express my ongoing support for our Catholic schools serving the wonderful young people in this Diocese of Rochester. Having attended Catholic schools for the entire time of my studies, beginning in kindergarten through post-graduate doctoral studies, I continue to appreciate the religious, moral and academic lessons that were taught to me and have guided me throughout my life. The Religious Sisters of Mercy, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the diocesan priests, the Dominican Fathers and the Society of Jesus all contributed to my spiritual and intellectual development, a veritable treasure to be revered!
Catholic Schools Week occurs still within the shadow of the great feast of Christmas, the birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ. It is a time when people also give a great deal of attention to the giving of gifts — selecting just the right gift with the hope that it will bring the recipient joy. In our Diocese of Rochester, over its long and distinguished history reaching back to 1868, a great gift has been given and continues to be given to us, the gift, the possibility of a Catholic education. Because of the sacrifices, donations and hard labors of so many people, Catholic schools were founded soon after the diocese’s foundation. Today, once again, because of the sacrifices of so many, our parents, the faithful of our diocese and our dedicated teachers and staff, our young people are able to receive a Catholic education.
Let us for a moment consider why a Catholic education is a gift. Gifts are intended to help us, and the longer a gift helps us, the more valued and treasured it becomes. So it is then that a fine education lasts us a lifetime, paving the way for our future success in the world, giving us the solid foundation upon which to build our lives. And the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith upon which all Catholic education is grounded provides an education that is total and complete. Religion is not extraneous to or separate from the educational process, but actually it is at the very core, the very heart of learning.
In the course of our studies, we learn that the positive influence of faith was appreciated by the Founders of our country, these United States, who saw religious faith not as something separate from government but vital to the nation’s survival. In his farewell address, our first president, George Washington, stressed that “religion and morality are indispensable supports” for a country’s prosperity.
Indeed, it is a great gift that in every classroom in every Catholic school, in every subject, in the study of literature, history, art, science, in these and other disciplines, one is able to learn, to appreciate and to discuss without restriction how faith has inspired some of the greatest works of literature, art, music and the course of history.
For every generation, for us, it will always be “the best of times, the worst of times … the season of Light, the season of Darkness … the spring of hope, the winter of despair.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities) It is my prayer that our young people, through the gift of a Catholic education, will experience the best of times, the season of Light, the spring of hope, because they will have come to know and to love God, the first teacher in whose classroom we are all students. Like the Wise Men, the Three Kings, the astrologers from the East, we now bend our knee in humble prayer and thanksgiving and seek his guidance, especially in the formation of our young people.
In closing, it is my fervent hope that those attending our Catholic schools, with their families, are active participants in the life of the church; that fidelity to learning is wedded to fidelity in worship; that there is an ongoing procession from the desk to the pew; that relationships formed at school are blessed with a strong relationship with God, especially in the personal encounter with his son in the most holy Eucharist.
Invoking the Lord’s blessing upon our Catholic-school families and asking the intercession of St. John Fisher, brilliant in learning and sterling in faith, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester