Why Catholic schools matter: Helping our children aspire to another kind of greatness

Published on
St. Roberts Ada 2023 2

"Unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (MT 18:3) Really? I haven't met anyone who wants to go back to their childhood. I have met people who would like to go back to the early adult years when they were young and beautiful and strong. I recently read about a man who spends $2 million dollars a year on a routine that he believes will make his body younger - but not like a child. 

Jesus’ words were a response to a question the disciples had asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” That’s a clue as to what Jesus was getting at. He responds by showing them a child. We all leave childhood behind. We can’t help it. Childhood doesn’t last very long. So what does Jesus see in children?

First, a child is dependent. A child does not think that he or she can face life all by him/her-self.  They are needy; they depend completely on those who love them and care for them. What is the lesson for adults? We must depend upon God and not ourselves!

Second, a child is humble. A child does not wish to be prominent but would rather be in the background. Every now and then, parents will bring their children up to me so they can say hello to the bishop and meet him, and every now and then a child turns away and buries his or her face in their mother’s coat! It is only as a child grows and begins to be initiated into the world of competition with its pursuit of ribbons and trophies and “first place” that a child’s instinctive humility is left behind. The lesson for adult disciples is: Do not seek power or attention or control. Seek Jesus first, others second, and yourself third.

Finally, a child is trusting. Children instinctively trust their parents. They trust their superiors in school, that these adults want what is best for them, and that their needs will be met. The lesson for adults? We need to have the same trust that, no matter what, God will ultimately take care of us.

Of course, children do not need to “grow out of” these qualities that lead to greatness in the kingdom of heaven. How can they continue to be humble, realizing that they are not their own god but one of God’s beloved creatures? How can they continue to be dependent upon God and not reliant upon their own resources? How can they grow in trusting God regardless of what happens?

Their parents can help. Parents take their sons and daughters to the pediatrician and dentist. They make sure their children are participating in physical education and athletics. Parents, however, are also to take care of their children’s spiritual needs and growth. They are the primary educators of their children in the Catholic faith. They must take this responsibility seriously, for it is an important component of their God-given vocation as a mother or father.

A growing number of parents are turning to Catholic schools to assist them in honoring their spiritual parental duties. In Catholic schools, parents, principals and teachers work together to put students first. They want what is best for them – mind, body and soul. It should be no surprise then that students do well in Catholic schools.

The theme for Catholic Schools Week this past January was “Faith. Excellence. Service.”  Catholic schools are, above all, communities of faith. They help parents place in the hearts of their daughters and sons the desire to become saints. This makes Catholic education different from other schools in the things that matter the most. Service is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple, to be a follower of Christ, to be a lover of God. We have the great commandment that we are to love God with all that we have and all that we are, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We live to serve God, but we also strive to serve everybody else. Catholic schools teach their students how to serve God and neighbor and give students opportunities to learn how to do it.

Parents only get one chance to educate their children. A God-centered education will do the most good for young impressionable souls. I thank everyone for their participation in this great evangelizing effort of the Church! Catholic schools teach their students how to serve God and neighbor and give students opportunities to learn how to do it.” 

Article by Most Reverand David Walkowiak, the 12th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids. 

FAITH Grand Rapids | March 2023 | GRdiocese.org