Catholic Education is our Response to Christ’s Instruction
By Bishop David J. Malloy
T his coming week, January 30 – February 5, we will celebrate Catholic Schools Week. This is more than simply an annual opportunity for the Catholic Church to boast a little about the successes of Catholic schools, even though that sort of pride in the historical success and contribution of schools would be well merited.
Still, the prayer, sacrifice and investment in Catholic education, which began in the 19th century, has a deeper foundation. Because of our baptism, each of us is included in the Lord’s final words before His Ascension as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel to teach all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded us. (Mt. 28: 19-20). A special part of evangelization has always looked to the future. That means that families and the Church have always sought to impart the faith to coming generations. 
The commitment of the Church to foster Catholic education is therefore a direct response to Christ’s instructions. Keeping in mind the goal for which each of us was made — to be eternally with Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Father’s house — our Catholic schools strive to help our young people to meet the challenges of faith.
At the same time, our young people must prepare for the challenges of the modern world. Our schools give an excellent education including math, reading and science. How well our young people are prepared for the future is regularly reflected in the test scores for which our schools are justly proud and well known.
And of course, to follow Christ is to care for those who are most in need. Our young people learn service, charity and the respect for the gift of life as part of Catholic education.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent years have presented particular challenges to schools in general. Catholic schools have been no exception. For that reason, as Catholics we can be especially proud and grateful for the contributions of Catholic education to our young people.
To understand the extent of our commitment to educating our young people, here are some facts for us to be aware of. Currently in the Diocese of Rockford, we have 29 elementary schools, six diocesan high Schools and two private Catholic high schools. Nearly 9,000 young people attend our Catholic schools, an increase this year of approximately three percent. Some 500 teachers are committed to their guidance and instruction. Of course to support this effort we have excellent administrators and support personnel as well.
I am grateful for the vision of education and the sacrifices that our teachers, staff and students have made throughout the pandemic. Our Catholic schools were among the first to reopen after the COVID-19 outbreak in order to have in-class instruction. That continues to this day.
With the spread of the omicron variant, when staff members have not been available, others have filled in to keep our education going. There are examples of special teachers and principals who have substituted in the classrooms or in staffing offices. In some cases teachers have temporarily shifted schools to help where a need had arisen. Much adaptation has been done so that our schools can do whatever needs to be done to keep our schools open and students safe.
Finally, I wish to thank the parents of our students. They have made the choice that Catholic education is best for their children and their family. Our program of combining faith and excellence cannot be done without their involvement and support. How grateful we are for all of their sacrifices.
“Faith. Excellence. Service.” This is the theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week. It sums up why we are grateful to God and to all who sacrifice to make possible the great work of our Catholic schools.