A New School Year

Cunningham_formal_robes In quiet evening moments while reading on the porch, I have noticed that the shadows are lengthening and dusk is coming earlier. The realization that the days are shortening reminds me that the warm, wonderful days of summer vacation will soon be pleasant memories. In a few short weeks, schools — parochial, private, and public — will begin a new school year and once more be the means by which our wisdom and our culture will pass from one generation to the next.

I salute all involved in the education of our young — parents, teachers, principals and school staffs. They truly touch the future as they educate our children and young people. We owe them a debt of enormous gratitude! In a special way, I also acknowledge the young people in the schools of Central New York. I pray and hope that they will be receptive to the knowledge offered to them, and make it their own, so that they will be productive members of society.

I wish all our schools and students a successful and peaceful year! In a special way, however, I want to acknowledge Catholic schools. They remain the most effective vehicle for passing on our Catholic faith to our young people. And our teachers, religious and lay, deserve our admiration and respect. Their commitment to our Catholic schools should be noted and gratefully acknowledged.

Last year when Pope Benedict XVI visited our country and met with Catholic educators, he called them “bearers of wisdom.” The word wisdom comes from the Latin word “sapientia” and means “tasting knowledge” — the knowledge that is delightful and not merely abstract. Wisdom is like the experience of tasting a good dessert, a very different experience from reading the recipe for the dessert! As a gift of the Holy Spirit, wisdom enables us to delight in the love God has revealed to us in His Son, the Word made flesh.

As “bearers of wisdom” our Catholic school administrators and teachers are called to instill in their students a taste for knowledge not only about math and science, social studies and literature, but most importantly, a taste for knowledge about God and His plan of salvation for all His people. This knowledge is not abstract information about God, but rather a “knowing” Him that is more fittingly called love.

Catholic school administrators and teachers play a crucial role in the Church’s primary mission of evangelization, spreading the Gospel, the words and deeds of Jesus, into all areas of life. Their professionalism and the witness of their lives are vital if our schools are to be sacred places where students not only learn about Jesus but become conformed to His likeness. In the practice of the Christian life, students will learn more by the example of their teachers than by their masterful pedagogical techniques. As a Catholic school student, I know that the example of my teachers was a powerful inspiration for me.  The words of Pope Paul VI are as meaningful today as they were more than 30 years ago: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelization in the Modern World #41)

I am grateful to the 530 lay teachers, clergy and religious, and the 285 non-teaching personnel who staff our schools. All of them are called to witness to the Gospel in our 26 schools that will educate approximately 7,750 students from Pre-K through 12th grade.

I thank parents for entrusting their children into our care. I am grateful also to our pastors and parishioners who continue to support Catholic school education. The national theme for our Catholic schools this year is: Catholic Schools: Dividends for Life. In these difficult economic times, I am confident that our Catholic schools will produce long-lasting dividends. A Catholic school education is a priceless investment in a child’s future. A visit to any one of our schools will show dedicated faculty and staff, and students eager to learn. A visit would enable you to experience a future that is bright with hope.

During the past year, our schools were assisted by funds made available through the HOPE Appeal. Over $500,000 in financial aid was given to students across our diocese. In addition, Bishop Moynihan was able to release $150,000 in the form of “Bishop’s Aid.” I call on your continued support of this vital appeal to assist us in the ministry of Catholic Education. And I thank you for all that you have done in the past to support our efforts for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Syracuse.

Most Rev. Robert J.Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse
August 12, 2009

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