Our nation celebrates Catholic Schools Week from Sunday, Jan. 28 to Saturday, Feb. 3. It is important that we celebrate our Catholic schools, not out of sheer pride, but rather for the service they provide as a vital apostolate of the universal Catholic Church. It is the mission of the Church to teach (Matthew 28:19) and present and nurture the faith for the next generations. We teach the faith every day in religion class, and the faith is also able to be taught, modeled and discussed in the other classes as well.
We are blessed that we have no fears about praying at school, worshipping God at Mass, and teaching our students how to practice their faith now and when they are adults. The learning never ends, and a Catholic school education provides the best foundation for that life-long discipleship. There are alternatives like CCD when a Catholic school education is not available to families, but there are no substitutes for it. There is no comparison between one hour a week and five days a week in classes taught by a priest, consecrated religious, or trained lay teacher, and being immersed in a Catholic culture and climate.
Despite some challenges to our Catholic faith happening in our country today, I am extremely hopeful for our future when I see our students daily here at school. While they are not perfect, they are great young people. They have pride in being a student at Aquinas and St. Mary’s. They know that we are “different” at a Catholic school, and different in a good way. Different in that we pray regularly throughout the school day. Different in that we have high expectations for every one of them; in the chapel, in the classroom, on the court, on the stage. By and large, they do not complain about these high expectations. They don’t want to be just good enough, they want to live and be greater! A well rounded Catholic education of religious formation and catechesis, academic strength, competitive sports, and appreciation of the fine arts all contribute to helping our students along their journey to heaven.
We are able to do what we do as Catholic schools because of the faithful support we receive from our deanery parishes and other generous benefactors. Our deanery parishioners are responsible for 60 percent of our $3.5 million annual budget, and we are extremely grateful to our pastors and all of you. The mission of the Catholic Church is to “teach the nations” and our parishioners help to fulfill that mission by the faithful financial support they give to their parish. Our Catholic schools are the best vehicle we have in our diocese and David City Deanery for the transmission of the Catholic faith.
Catholic Schools Week is also an important time to remind our fellow citizens that parents should have the freedom to choose where their children receive an education. LB295 is coming up in the Nebraska Legislature this session that will allow for scholarships for low-income students. It does so by enacting a tax credit for donations to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations.
We need LB295 to pass because many families cannot afford to pay both taxes in support of government schools and tuition for parochial or other private schools. This bill would give low and middle-income families privately funded scholarships (and take zero money away from public schools) to choose a private education for their children. Only these private funds are used to help private-school students. LB295 will actually save tax dollars in the short term by slowing the amount of state aid needed for public schools. Also, if a recipient transfers from a public to a private school, it will leave more resources for the state to spend on fewer students. I encourage you to contact your state senator and voice your support for meaningful school choice. We appreciate all that our entire community does for Aquinas and St. Mary’s. Happy Catholic Schools Week to all!
Fr. Sean M. Timmerman is the superintendent of Aquinas Catholic Schools