Of all the many things that a bishop is expected to do, insuring the transmission of faith within his diocese is most important. He has a personal responsibility to do that through his own preaching and teaching. More broadly, however, he fulfills his teaching obligations by fostering, promoting and supporting works of Catholic education – Catholic schools and Catholic religious education programs – throughout his diocese.
As Our Lord ascended into heaven, having completed his work on earth, he instructed his disciples, “Go, teach (Matthew 28: 20).” It was Jesus’ command that inspired the theme for this past year’s Bishop’s Annual Appeal. And, as always, the wonderful people of the Diocese of Trenton have responded with characteristic generosity.
When I first announced the major focus of this year’s annual appeal as support for Catholic education with an additional $1 million for tuition assistance, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Our Catholic people know, as I am absolutely convinced, that Catholic education is critically important for the future of our Church. In talks I have given all over our country, I have referred to Catholic education programs, especially Catholic schools, as the “hope of the Church.”
This year, our increased goal enabled 1,153 Catholic school students to receive tuition assistance – 384 more students than last year – with the average award rising from $895 to $1,292.
People are facing great economic struggles today and must make decisions on how they will stretch their already strained dollars. I know that. Contributing to the Bishops’ Appeal involves great sacrifice for some and I cannot express my gratitude adequately. But your gift is the “hope of the Church,” our Church, your Church.
Although we still face the very real possibility that some schools in the diocese may have to close in the near future, we need to keep “hope” alive. The Bishop’s Annual Appeal does just that, not only for our Catholic schools but for all the works of our diocese, especially those that benefit the most needy.
As Bishop, I thank you with all my heart for the hope that you give to so many and for helping me in the transmission of our faith both in teaching and in practice. May God bless you, now and always!
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