Catholic education a unique and outstanding achievement
It's that time of the year again, the time when summer fast approaches and ceremonies and celebrations abound to honor those graduating to the next level of education or to a desired place in the workforce.
It is always a happy occasion, and one filled with hope, to congratulate graduates who have applied themselves in school, using their intellect, will and all of their talents and so excelled not only in their studies but in so many other endeavors that go with life on campus such as sports and student government.
For us as Catholics, it is also a time to honor and thank the countless consecrated women and men in religious orders who, for generations, have given their whole lives to the cause of educating children and young people.
The Catholic school system in the United States is a unique and most outstanding achievement of the Church in this country, and it is thanks to these brothers and sisters of ours who have sought a more perfect union with Christ through the profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience in the active apostolate.
As Pope Benedict XVI observed in his address to Catholic educators during his visit to our country in April 2008: "The Catholic community here [i.e., the United States] has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation."
Our own diocese is certainly no exception to this legacy. Indeed, the Diocese of Oakland has always been marked by a prominent presence of religious — sisters, brothers and priests — who have dedicated their lives to the teaching apostolate. Of course, much has changed since the years when schools were staffed nearly exclusively by the professed members of the order, in more ways than one.
That is why we are now developing a strategic plan for the schools of our diocese to insure that they will provide a 21st-century Catholic education that is accessible and affordable to all families for the next generation and beyond.
The "Catholic advantage" of those who have graduated from our schools is well known to all in the field of education. The advantage, though, goes beyond the academic, although it certainly includes that, too. Catholic educators understand and operate by the true purpose of education: the formation of the entire person — intellectual, physical, emotional and, primarily, moral and spiritual. It is the education of the whole person that will enable the student to be successful in life, not just materially but in the more important and fundamental aspects of life: in their practice of the faith, in their generosity and giving back to the community, in faithful perseverance in their vocation.
It is ultimately through their vocation that they will find the true happiness that God wants for them. With so much emphasis these days placed on career, we run the risk of losing sight of the primary importance of vocation. Minimally, a career provides a source of income to enable one to support one's family; at best, a career can provide an outlet for one to use one's talents not simply to improve their own financial stability but also to serve the community and give glory to God by growing to be the person He created them to be.
But this can only happen if one is properly formed in one's relationship to God through family upbringing, education and vocation. It is through one's vocation that God calls us to serve Him and so be happy with Him, precisely because, unlike a career, we cannot change our vocation. Our vocation requires us to make those little and sometimes big sacrifices in order to persevere. It often requires a little death to self for a greater good to be reaped later. This is a lesson that anyone who has been successful in school has begun to learn. It is part of the mystery of the cross.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all of our Catholic young people of all schools who are graduating in our diocese this year, and to wish you true success in all that you do so that you may know true happiness both in this life and in the life to come.