Over 50 years ago, the Second Vatican Council described the purpose of the Catholic school as creating "for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit ... (Vatican II, "Declaration on Christian Education, 8")."
A half-century later, the National Catholic Educational Association has as its recurring theme for Catholic Schools Week 2016, "Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service."
Those three aspects of Catholic education always find their source in Jesus Christ. "Everything that happens in Catholic schools ... should lead to an encounter with the living Christ (Congregation for Catholic Education, "Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, III," 2014)." Such an encounter gives rise to faith, permeates knowledge and inspires service within the Catholic school community.
In the Diocese of Trenton, our Catholic primary and secondary schools pursue this three-fold mission as a means to evangelize the young people entrusted to our care in close collaboration with parents. The family is the first Catholic school, and parents, the first and most important teachers of the Catholic faith. Pastors and parish priests work generously with dedicated teachers and staff in the Catholic school to hand on and deepen the seeds of faith planted within the family home. Those seeds are watered and nurtured in our Catholic schools producing "fruit that will last (John 15: 16):" a community of faith, knowledge and service that reaches far beyond classroom doors.
As Bishop, I cannot thank parents enough for their sacrifice and trust in making Catholic education possible for their children. I cannot thank parish priests enough for their support of Catholic education. I cannot thank teachers and staff enough for their work and witness to all that Catholic education can and does offer. I cannot thank enough the benefactors without whose generosity our Catholic schools might not be able to keep their doors open.
It is all of you, along with our students, who create and sustain the Catholic school communities mentioned earlier, communities animated by the Gospel and leading to Christ. I cannot imagine the Catholic Church without its schools. I hope we never have to!