Traveling in the footsteps of the apostles, who journeyed from place to place to preach the Word of God, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., recently completed a busy week of preaching and teaching.
On Oct. 3, Bishop O’Connell offered the keynote address at an invitational conference entitled “The Catholic Identity of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Held at The Catholic University of America, Washington, and co-hosted by St. John University of New York, some 100 invited guests, including Catholic educators, school and university administrators, and educational researchers from around the nation met to consider ways to keep Catholic schools Catholic.
Their aim, according to a CUA news story on the event, was to determine what Catholic school personnel understand about the Catholic character of schools, what constitutes evidence of Catholic identity, and how Catholic institutions of higher education can help bolster it in Catholic elementary and secondary schools. The speakers and attendees acknowledged that Catholic schools should be understood first as Catholic, but in some cases look more like just another option in the pool of academically rigorous private schools.
Click HERE to read the Bishop's Red Mass homily.
In his address, Bishop O’Connell, former CUA president, stressed that school administrators and teachers must refocus in an “intentional” way on the fundamental mission of Catholic education. He said, “The idea of Catholic identity is very simple. A Catholic school derives its identity from Jesus Christ, from the Gospels, from the Church and its teaching – all of its teachings in integrity, from the history and tradition of the Church.”
“Our Catholic identity is who and what we are,” he continued, noting it is not an “add-on. It’s a mission in our religion classes, but it’s also the mission in our math classes, computer classes, and everything else that we do.” Catholic education, he explained, “brings good news to every human situation.”
It is critical, he added, that those individuals leading Catholic schools “must believe in Catholic identity.”
Several days later, at the invitation of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., Bishop O’Connell was principal celebrant and homilist for the annual Red Mass for those who serve in law professions celebrated Oct. 7 in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh.
Among those attending the Red Mass, which is a tradition in the Catholic Church dating back to the 13th century, were members of the judicial and legal professions, civic leaders and law enforcement officials.
The Red Mass invokes God’s blessing and the Holy Spirit’s guidance upon those charged with the pursuit of justice: judges, lawyers and legislators. Its term is derived from the red vestments traditionally worn to symbolize the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire that descended on the Apostles.
In his homily, Bishop O’Connell spoke of God being the starting point of all things. He told the members of the legal and judicial professions that theirs is a noble profession, a noble profession with a responsibility because it comes from God.
“If you believe in God,” Bishop O’Connell said, “you’ll have no difficulty in understanding the idea of law. If you believe that God created the world, then you’ll have no difficulty in understanding the purpose of law. And if you believe that God redeemed the world, then you’ll have no difficulty in understanding the necessity of law.”
Preaching again Oct. 9, for the Diocese of Allentown’s annual Red Mass, Bishop O’Connell expressed his concern that the nation is losing its way, noting that the founders recognized our reliance on God. He said our founding principles are being challenged today, citing as an example, that respect for life is looked upon by some as simply a religious notion.
“If we believe that God created the world,” Bishop O’Connell concluded, “let there be justice, so that every human right might be seen as rooted in him. And if we believe that it is possible to be redeemed through God’s light and justice, let there be a love that binds and obliges us all one to one another as we live our lives in the freedom of the Lord.”
Compiled by Mary Morrell, Acting Managing Editor.
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