In the evolution of the language, it seems that the word community has become synonymous with school – at least in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Take a look at the student testimonials in this week’s Catholic Schools Week section and notice that three-quarters of young writers use community to refer to their places of learning.
Anyone involved in their upbringing should feel a sense of pride.
The school is the building, the institution, the framework of the mission. Community is Spirit-filled mission, made alive in all its participants.
For young people to count themselves as participants—not just passive members—a school and all its parts have truly been enlivened by the Spirit.
Nearly two years into this terrible pandemic, when education has suffered so many setbacks and challenges, that sense of community has never been more valuable.
And that’s exactly what our children need.
Allison O’Donnell, a senior at Assumption High School, who had just one normal year of high school before the pandemic began, writes that her school’s community has her back when she needs support.
“During times when I feel stressed, I know I can lean on my school community, much like I can lean on Jesus in my difficult times,” she writes.
Beyond that, the community of the Assumption also helps her to follow Jesus:
“Our community values the words of Jesus and we live them every day. We are the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth and we are called to go out into the world and be his disciples, and the Assumption taught me to do just that.
Kate Lancaster, an eighth grade student at St. Augustine School in Lebanon, Ky., sees her little school as a family in which members support each other and also lead themselves to Jesus.
“This family is full of young children and teenagers thirsty for faith and knowledge who are striving to grow in the love of Jesus,” she wrote. “Through this lack of love, Saint Augustine overflows with kindness and generosity. St. Augustine teachers focus on the importance of loving others and following God’s ways. They always remind us to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Towards the end, she adds, “I love my school community.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz calls the archdiocesan education centers “schools of love.”
In these schools, he wrote in his message for Catholic Schools Week, “our students learn and experience a reality greater than themselves. They are called daily, through prayer, service and learning, to focus on the person of Jesus and the gospel call to see others through the eyes of Jesus. They are encouraged to channel God’s love for them into acts of service, compassion, and love for others.
Schools “provide a shining light to families, the Church and the wider community through their intentional call, inviting and inspiring students to be persons to others, however they live out their vocation” , he wrote.
“Unfortunately,” he notes, “we can see the need for the fruits of communion – the common good and solidarity – in our fractured and often polarized world.”
It is sad that our world is fractured and polarized. But the Archdiocese of Louisville is full of men and women who were educated in these school communities. They probably remember what Kate and Allison describe in their testimonials – the sense of community, of living for others, the mutual support that can be found in a community.
This is not the domain of children; this is the kingdom of God and this is what we should be striving for. Let’s learn from our schools and share their gifts with our wider communities.