The following comes from a Jan. 17 article in Catholic San Francisco written by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

This week we celebrate the mission of Catholic schools and their cherished legacy. We also recommit ourselves to assuring their future because they are critical to the life of the Church. Catholics schools are privileged places for young people to encounter Jesus Christ through Catholic faith, Catholic culture, and the Catholic intellectual tradition on a daily basis as they learn and grow and develop. Because Catholic schools are called to be, as Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, of Vancouver states, “inspired by a supernatural vision, founded on Christian anthropology, animated by communion and community, imbued with a Catholic worldview throughout the curriculum, and sustained by Gospel witness,“ they are the ideal and obvious institutions to help address a growing problem facing the Catholic Church.

In a May, 2004 article for Commonweal Dr. John Cavadini of Notre Dame calls out and laments the religious illiteracy of so many otherwise well-educated young Catholics. According to Dr. Cavadini, “This vast ignorance is not just a question of missing bits of information, retinal holes marring an otherwise excellent field of vision. It is something more like a retinal detachment, a whole field of vision pulling inexorably away toward blindness. Not only are the words gone, the bits of information, but the system in which the words made sense is fading.”

The pathway out of the kind of ignorance Cavadini sites requires, as he says, a “renewed pedagogy” that focuses on the fundamental doctrines of the faith – what Catholics believe. It also requires a pedagogy that invites and leads young people to a moment of epiphany when they can see the faith with new eyes. This is exactly what Catholic education is all about.

Catholic schools convey knowledge of what the faith teaches, but they also offer a culture in which students can’t help but bump into the faith again and again across the disciplines, in their co-curricular activities, and in the witness of their teachers. In such an environment they become aware that the faith offers a world view that is neither naive nor limiting. Rather, it is coherent, sophisticated and expansive. This realization, according to Cavadini, “has a unique power to reconnect students to the church’s faith. When it is combined with an awakening to the sense of the sheer beauty, richness, and sophistication of Catholicism’s two-thousand-year-old tradition, there is no substitute for the impact it has on students.”