While all Catholics understand that Catholic education is necessary for the continued evangelization of the world and the building up of the Kingdom of God, what many Catholics do not realize is that Catholic education is vital for the health of our society and our country. The rise of evangelical schools in the United States shows that other Christian communities have learned what the Catholic Church has always known – that there is no substitute for an educational environment permeated by faith and Gospel values.
In 2005 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral statement entitled “Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium.” In this statement, the bishops reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to Catholic education and the immense value the Catholic school system provides for society: “These Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated.”
The bishops make it clear that the responsibility of Catholic education is the entire Catholic community – bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and laity – making Catholic education a viable reality for all Catholic parents and children. It is through Catholic schools that the young people of the third millennium can be a source of energy and leadership in the Church and in the nation. In today’s complex and increasing secular, and often hostile, world, Catholic schools provide young people with a rigorous and doctrinally sound program of education and faith formation designed to strengthen their union with Christ and with the Church. The strong morality and virtue emphasized in Catholic education helps promote the dignity of the human person, which is the founding principle of society and of our country.