On March 19th of this year, the solemnity of St. Joseph, Holy Mass was celebrated in Rome by Pope Francis to inaugurate his ministry as bishop of Rome and successor of St. Peter. His homily that day offers a beautiful perspective from which to appreciate the gift and responsibility of all involved in Catholic education.
Our Holy Father directed his attention to the duty entrusted by God to St. Joseph to be the custos, or "protector," of the Holy Family. To him was given the duty to care for, guide and protect Mary, his spouse, and Jesus, who was born of Mary by the Holy Spirit.
The pope drew attention to St. Joseph in order to propose him as a model for everyone. We are each responsible to care for and protect the gifts that God has given us: the poor and needy, our relatives, friends and fellow citizens, creation.
How does the example of St. Joseph, the patron saint of our country, speak to us who are entrusted with the gift of Catholic education? In what ways does God call us to care for and protect this particular treasure?
At the heart of Catholic education stands the same One who formed the centre of the Holy Family: Jesus. The goal of all activity in our schools, both curricular and extra-curricular, is to lead our students and one another to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
He is our peace, our hope, our joy. We serve as custos of our Catholic educational system when we are attentive to every possibility to help our young people know, love and follow the Lord.
Those who are touched and transformed by the love of Christ and choose to follow him are formed by that same love into the communion of life and service we call the Church, the Body of Christ.
The faithful guardians of Catholic education will know that the school is an element of the Church and thus seek to foster and strengthen the bonds that must exist between parish, school and family.
Participating in the mission of the Church, Catholic education plays its part in handing on the gift of faith. We protect and nurture this gift by allowing it to permeate not only our curriculum but also ourselves. Only when we are imbued with the gift of faith can we give faithful witness before others to the joy it brings.
The love of Christ impels us to service, particularly to those who live on the margins of society. Therefore, we strive to prepare our young people for the service of our society and world by giving of themselves for the common good.
By the faithful exercise of our responsibilities as parents, parish priests and pastoral teams, trustees, administration, teachers and support staff, we teach our young people that they, too, are called to be custos of their brothers and sisters, of peace among people, and of the integrity of creation.
Pope Francis noted in his homily that St. Joseph exercised his role of custos by careful attentiveness and faithful obedience to the Word of God. By his intercession, may the grace of Christ make us ever more faithful hearers and doers of God's Word and thus effective protectors and guides of Catholic education in our province.