January 26, 2024
Catholic Schools - The Dream that Makes You Dream
This week, on Jan. 31, we celebrate the feast of a great modern-day saint who profoundly influenced the education and lives of many young people, St. John Bosco. He founded the Salesian family, which this year is celebrating the 200th anniversary of a dream that the saint had when he was 9 years old. John Bosco was well known for his dreams, which influenced his life as well as that of the Church. In this particular dream, the young John Bosco describes seeing young boys playing and laughing but also using blasphemy. In his dream, John pounced on the young boys and began to punch them for their misbehavior when suddenly Christ appeared and told him, “Not with blows but with gentleness and charity.” When he asked Christ to identify Himself, the Lord introduced him to Mary, His Mother, who showed the young John how the misguided youth turned into ferocious animals and then into lambs. She said, “In time you will understand everything.” This dream was a foundation of the educational method of St. John Bosco, which relies upon love, gentleness and patience. Cardinal Anthony Ángel Fernández Artime, the 10th successor of St. John Bosco as the rector major of the Salesians, said that St. Bosco’s dream is “The dream that makes you dream. A heart that transforms ‘wolves’ into ‘lambs.’”
How fitting it is that we celebrate Catholic Schools Week this year as the feast of St. John Bosco falls in its midst. Catholic Schools Week begins on Sunday, Jan. 28, and concludes on Saturday, Feb. 3. This is an important week for our Catholic schools as we celebrate their importance in the life of the Church and in our Diocese. Certainly, we can refer to our Catholic schools as “the dream that makes you dream.” We are fully committed to our Catholic schools within the Diocese of Palm Beach as a priority in terms of the life of faith and education which they give to our young people. We live in a world where we see that wolves need to be turned into lambs, and it is only our faith that can realize this dream.
It is not uncommon to hear someone who has attended a Catholic school remember with gratitude their years of education. As a priest, I often encounter people who will immediately greet me because they remember the days of their youth when they were in a Catholic school. They will tell me of a certain sister, priest or teacher they remember and how their positive experience of Catholic schools has remained with them. It is quite obvious that Catholic schools have made a tremendous difference in the lives of these individuals.
Many parents make tremendous sacrifices to send their children to a Catholic school, and they do so because they know of its importance in the life of their child. For a person of faith, the environment and education that are provided by Catholic school truly have no substitute. Our Catholic schools are communities of faith and service in a manner that has no parallel. The Catholic school forms the mind and spirit, and there can be no substitute for this, a true dream.
In a Catholic school, a young person comes into daily contact with the faith environment that permeates the academic subjects taught and the social activities of school life. Religion is not just another subject in the curriculum and prayer is not only a routine to begin and end the school day. Faith and prayer are part of the very fabric of a Catholic school’s atmosphere. Even such subjects as math and science take on a new dimension when they are presented in a faith atmosphere. Those who teach in a Catholic school are living conveyors of the message of faith. They impart to the young students not only knowledge but the gift of living example. The presence of a religious and a priest in a Catholic school truly touches the life of a young person in a unique manner, which has been the experience of many of us. The celebration of the Eucharist, as well as the availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in a Catholic school context are the foundation of what the Catholic school is all about.
Catholic schools truly enhance the life of the Church. While an individual’s life is enhanced by a Catholic school education, so is that of all the members of the body which is the Church. The Church is made up of individuals, but these individuals form a family as God intended the Church to be. What affects one individual affects all the members of the family. The Catholic school is itself enriched by those who make up its members, and these members continue to enrich the Church through what is passed on to them in the Catholic school. There is a need for all of us, whether a parish is attached to the school or not, to support Catholic schools because all schools add to the quality of life in the Church and the Diocese. The future of the life of the Church will be affected by our young people who are more fully formed in the faith. There is no better support to a growing life of faith than the dream of the Catholic school.
Catholic schools, by being communities of faith, make a difference in the life of society. This is a reality which is many times underestimated, especially in the present atmosphere in which we live, where many times wolves need to be transformed into lambs. Catholic schools are countercultural, providing values and setting moral standards which go contrary to our society. Catholic schools provide moral principles to young people which are not only basic to our faith but basic to all people. Many prominent persons in our society have acknowledged the values imparted to him or her in a Catholic school setting.
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we are grateful for the outstanding Catholic schools within our Diocese and recommit ourselves to their importance as communities of faith, knowledge and service. Our Catholic schools touch the lives not only of the young people who attend them but of all of us. They truly make a vital difference in the life of the Church. I am deeply grateful to all in our Diocese who are so committed to the life of our Catholic schools, and I encourage all to assist them in their efforts. I especially thank our Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Gary Gelo, and his staff with all of our principals and teachers, who on a daily basis give themselves to making our Catholic schools the dream they are. We all have reason to be very proud of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach and to offer them our fullest support as they continue to be communities of faith in a world that needs to live the dream of the Gospel.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito