I visited two of our Catholic grammar schools last week, the first days of school. Just what a principal needs — the bishop visiting at the beginning moments of a new school year! I have to report that neither of the principals gave any evidence of stress caused by my visit. Each was delighted that I had come to the school. I do these visits because our schools are of utmost importance to the future of our Church, to the New Evangelization and to the forming of Missionary Disciples.
At Resurrection Catholic School in Cherry Hill I stood at the door of the school with the principal, Mrs. Molly Webb, as the buses and cars were dropping off the students. Despite the rain the children were happily running up the steps to enter the building where they were lovingly greeted by aides and teachers. I was amazed that Mrs. Webb knew the name of each student, even the new students. In every one of our Catholic Schools, each student is personally known and loved. A hallmark of Catholic education philosophy is the individual focus each student receives as a unique person created by God.
After an hour of settling into classrooms and meeting teachers, the entire student body assembled in Christ Our Light Church for a prayer service to ask the blessings of the Lord on the work of the academic year ahead and on the teachers, staff, administration, families and each student. As I write this I can still hear the gusto singing of the 300 or so students praising God. They sang out; they sang with energy. Is there a better way to begin the school year than in praise of and prayer to God? Gathered in the church building surrounded by signs of faith and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, each student is anchored in his or her relationship with God and with the Catholic Church. A Catholic education forms the soul of each student so that they know they are connected to God.
I visited Saint Teresa School, Runnemede, on their second day of school, which began outside the building around a flag pole with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. (See photos on page 17.) In a Catholic School children learn patriotism, respect for the flag. They are taught to be productive and responsible citizens and to love our country.
This morning exercise was interrupted with the presentation of a check to the diocese for $150,000 by Mr. George Lynn, president of the board of the South Jersey Scholarship Fund. Most of this money is raised by an annual pre-Christmas concert. The monies are used to offer tuition assistance to families.
While this is a great help, we need more. I BEG for your assistance, especially those who in the past benefitted from a Catholic education when it was inexpensive and even cost free. There are children throughout South Jersey whose families cannot afford the tuition. Consider SPONSORING a child. We can arrange for you to meet the child and their family. If interested, contact my office at 856-583-2808. If you would like to make a contribution, call the above number.
After an eighth grader offered prayers, the principal, Sister Nancy Kindelan, IHM directed a student from each class to ring the large school bell at the entrance to the building. That joyful sound echoed in the courtyard and announced that the work of education was about to begin at Saint Teresa. Even I took a turn to ring that bell. I then visited each attractively decorated classroom. Hats off to our dedicated teachers whose sacrifices make possible these schools. As I made my rounds, lessons had begun. It was evident to this visitor that this Catholic school is a place of serious education and professional learning. The children were engaged with lessons in math, science, language, etc. A quality academic education is a defining characteristic of a Catholic school.
An education of the mind, the body, the heart, the soul, the whole person; an education that is academically sound and up to date; an education of future leaders of our Catholic Church; and an education that needs your support — our South Jersey Catholic Schools.