Catholic Schools Week is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the many blessings of our Catholic schools. When I think about Catholic Schools, my heart is filled with love and gratitude for the many gifts that I have received through my own Catholic education. There is a beautiful Ignatian Prayer that reflects this love called “Falling in Love,” attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is,
than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Throughout my life, I have fallen in love over and over again with Catholic schools. As the prayer says, I have gotten out of bed in the morning for Catholic schools, spent evenings and weekends at Catholic schools and yes, Catholic schools have amazed me with joy and gratitude. I am a proud product of Catholic elementary, high school, undergrad and graduate school. Except for my credential work, Catholic schools are my only educational experience as a student, teacher and administrator. The mission of Catholic schools runs deep through my veins, and it is rooted in love. I hope that Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity for you to fall in love with Catholic schools for the first time or, like me, over and over again.

Catholic schools have played an important part of our nation’s history for over 200 years; our schools have educated and formed Church, civic, and business leaders with strong Christian values and sense of service to those in need. Throughout the challenges of the past few years, Catholic schools have shown how community focused, mission-driven leadership can benefit children. While the overall mission of Catholic schools is rooted in the love and the teachings of Christ, the expressed mission of OC Catholic schools focuses on three important aspects: we are a ministry of the Diocese of Orange; we partner with parents and parish communities; and we utilize faith formation, academic excellence, and service programs as a means to form our students. If we have fidelity to our mission, then our students will transform the world. This mission is not only a mission rooted in love, but it is a mission of hope. As we look at the impact of our Catholic schools over the past three years, we must first acknowledge and celebrate that our schools have served as beacons of hope throughout an incredibly challenging time. Our schools have been places where students continue to grow in faith and academic excellence, even during the most challenging times. Last fall, the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) highlighted the academic achievements of Catholic schools across the nation. As stated in a news report, “Today, the divergence between Catholic schools and public ones is so great that if all U.S. Catholic schools were a state, their 1.6 million students would rank first in the nation across the NAEP reading and math tests for fourth and eighth grader.” These great achievements are possible because of our commitment to a mission which is guided by love.

The theme for National Catholic Schools Week aligns perfectly with our mission: “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” Catholic schools have a specific purpose to form students to be good citizens of the world, love God and neighbor and enrich society with the leaven of the gospel and by example of faith.
As communities of faith, Catholic schools instill in students their destiny to become saints. Academic excellence is the hallmark of Catholic education intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Finally, service is fundamental to Catholic education and the core of Catholic discipleship. Service is intended to help form people who are not only witnesses to Catholic social teaching, but also active participants through social learning (NCEA.org).

As we join nationally with all Catholic schools to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, I am ever so grateful to our school leaders and teachers for their love and unwavering commitment to mission. I am grateful to our parents for partnering with us and for entrusting their precious children to our care. I am filled with hope for the future as our children grow in faith, academic excellence and service. For those parents looking for a special, faith-filled, community which changes the lives of children, I invite you to visit your local Catholic school, take a tour and meet our amazing faculty, staff and students.

During Catholic Schools Week, may we remember the gifts of Catholic education and that falling in love and staying in love with God will decide everything.