Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron recently spoke about the role of Catholic schools in the Church and the new evangelization—an issue particularly urgent as many Catholic schools struggle to remain open and affordable. Archbishop Vigneron argues that schools are “an organic extension of the Church, an outgrowth of her very substance”:
Schools are integral to the Church not only because of who our Lord is but also because of who we are. We are persons, not animals or robots. God has created us with a dignity and a capacity for wisdom that correspond, however analogously, to his own. But neither are we angels, so we also need to learn wisdom and to grow in wisdom. . . . There are many ways we come to wisdom and to the knowledge of God, but our schools provide privileged opportunities for this education during the most formative years of our lives.
He reminds his listeners that Catholic schools do not exist merely to provide a superior form of education. Rather:
What we want for our students, to put the matter in its simplest form, is that they become saints. A school that is an effective instrument of the New Evangelization will equip each of its students with all that is needed to offer a wholehearted “yes” to the universal call to holiness.
Calling for a “fundamental renewal of our Catholic schools,” the archbishop points to a successful educator of the past:
Here I look to the great scholar Alcuin, who was the schoolmaster of Charlemagne and a very significant reformer of Catholic education around the turn of the 9th Century and one of the leading lights of the Carolingian Renaissance. Alcuin’s efforts at launching a new education project bore great fruit, reshaping Christian culture over 1000 years ago.
Today, we’re Alcuin. Christ is calling us “(to) put out into deep water” in the work of renewal. We must be “deep” in our self-examination, “deep” in the changes we are willing to make for the sake of our mission, and “deep” in the boldness with which we will launch out into a new way of educating our children. Half-measures will not be sufficient to do the job. Our schools need our commitment, our self-investment, and our resolve if they are to become the instruments of the New Evangelization Christ wants them to be. Our children need what we have to offer in our schools, which is to say they need Jesus, and woe to us if we fail them. Jesus himself expects this of us, and we cannot disappoint him.
The address is available in its entirety here (PDF).