By Bill Crist | Diocesan superintendent

National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs through that week, which for 2017 is Jan. 29 to Feb. 4. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2017 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

The 22 component schools in our diocese are beehives of activity at all times during the year, but during Catholic Schools Week we go above and beyond with our focus on our faith and service activities for our communities, as well as fostering the many vocations for our children to consider.

We were excited to begin our Catholic Schools Week celebration Jan. 27 with the 11th annual Light the Way Scholarship Dinner. Our dinner this year offered special recognition to our retired bishops, Most Rev. James Moynihan and Most Rev. Thomas Costello. Recipients of the Light the Way Award, both have given selflessly in service, commitment, and contributions to our Catholic Schools over their years serving our diocese as bishop. You can read more about those honored on pages 8 and 9 of this issue of the Sun.

A central aspect of Catholic education is learning the importance of service to others. When our students take part in service activities, they demonstrate the values and faith gained through Catholic education. As a diocese, we once again held a Day of Service on Jan. 30. On that day, most of our schools participated in a service project with a partner organization. Other schools in our diocese will make the week a special week of service and contribution to parts of the community in which they reside. Preparing personalized cards, serving meals, making blankets and items of comfort, and visiting hospitals and nursing homes make up but a small sample of the service offered by our students in celebration of Catholic Schools Week. Stay tuned to next week’s edition of the Sun for service highlights from around the diocese.

By focusing on vocations, Catholic schools prepare children to use their God-given talents to the fullest later in life. Recognition of our retired bishops and all of our religious — priests, deacons, sisters, and brothers — during this week and throughout the year is an opportunity to share how their faith guides them in their daily work. Keeping Bishop Cunningham even busier than his “normal” week with visitations and Mass celebrations at our schools helps our students better understand our faith through Eucharistic adoration, thoughtful prayers, and directed discussions of vocations. All of these experiences help to show our students how to incorporate the value of vocations into their lives.

Bishop Cunningham, in his pastoral letter “Faith: A Gift Received, a Treasure to Be Shared,” stated that “our Catholic schools exist to pass on our Catholic faith and to impart the human knowledge and skills that help to form good citizens for our country and the world. …They educate students for this world and for eternal life in the happiness of heaven.”

As we mark this week, bringing attention through celebration, service, and fostering vocations, I thank all those who support our Catholic schools within the Diocese of Syracuse. Have a happy and joyous Catholic Schools Week 2017.

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