Christ is at the ‘heart of Catholic education’, says Archbishop – Catholic Philly


Christ is at the heart of Catholic education, and meeting him is the ultimate outcome of learning, Bishop Nelson Pérez said at the launch of National Catholic Schools Week (January 30-February 5) in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The archbishop shared his insights during a Jan. 31 Mass at Father Judge High School in northeast Philadelphia, where he was joined by some 800 students, educators and clergy, as well as superintendent Nancy Kurtz. acting Archdiocesan Secondary Schools; Irene Horstmann Hannan, CEO of the Faith in the Future Foundation; and several board members and benefactors of Father Justice.

The liturgy also marked the start of the school’s special jubilee year honoring the 400th anniversary of the death of its patron, St. Francis de Sales.

Born in Savoy, France in 1567, the “Holy Gentleman” is revered for his wholesome spiritual guidance encouraging the faithful to pursue true devotion to God according to their different states of life. De Sales’ many writings are marked by an acute understanding of human personality and a joyous assurance that holiness, manifested in daily acts of kindness and charity, is possible for all.

Among the 20 concelebrants at Monday’s Mass were 13 priests from the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, whose religious order has ‘brought the teachings and the spirit’ of its patron to Father Judge since the school was founded in 1954, said the assistant athletic director and Oblate. Brother James Williams.

The Oblates “touched the lives of so many men here at (Father) Judge and taught them the things of the heart,” Bishop Pérez said.

And that is exactly the main mission of Catholic education, he said.

Bishop Nelson Pérez distributes Holy Communion to students at Father Judge High School during a Jan. 31 Mass kicking off the Archdiocesan celebration of National Catholic Schools Week. (Sarah Webb)

“You come here and learn all kinds of things, all kinds of subjects and topics,” he said. “But in the end, you learn things from the heart. And deep in our hearts is the very presence of Christ.

Amid the various professional and personal choices that graduates will face, “what matters at the end of the journey is (what)…you learn here, the things of Christ and his love for you and his care for you. you,” the archbishop said. “And that’s what makes a Catholic school special.”

Although sometimes difficult, prayer – through which the soul and Christ meet – “will carry you through the ups and downs of life,” he said, noting “St. Francis de Sales us showed how to pray.

The archbishop admitted that in battling distractions in prayer, he found solace in the saint’s advice to simply ‘do nothing’ before the Lord and instead ‘let yourself be seen’ – a maxim painted by liturgical artist and Oblate brother Mickey McGrath, who was on hand for the mass.

Prayer should be filled with gratitude, which is “at the heart of the Christian soul,” said Bishop Pérez, who urged students to thank their parents for the many sacrifices they have made for their children.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Pérez received a statue of St. Francis de Sales, a replica of a life-size bronze image created by Delaware-based sculptor Brad Vanneman and displayed at the Salesianum School in Wilmington.

Additionally, the Archbishop received a framed metal image of the Father Judge Crusader mascot, handcrafted by students from the school’s welding program, part of the Father Brisson Center for Academic Excellence and a first of its kind among archdiocesan secondary schools.

Launched in the 2019-2020 academic year, the Welding Pathway is key to the school’s comprehensive Professional and Educational Education (CTE) initiative, which over the next five years is expected to include courses in biotechnology, business, construction trades, culinary arts engineering and entrepreneurship.

Catholic education continues to evolve, even as it remains “rooted in Christ,” said the Archbishop, who continued his tour by meeting with several high school students from the Archdiocese in a public assembly at the Father Brisson Center.

Among a range of topics he discussed with attendees — drawn from Archbishop Ryan, Little Flower, St. Hubert and Father Judge Secondary Schools — the Archbishop highlighted Catholic education, as the faith that shapes it, ultimately produces “joy” and the ability to “make the right choices.”

St. John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, “brought together a group of people when Catholic schools didn’t exist and (created) this ministry of education,” Bishop Pérez said. “It was a gift we gave to the world.”


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