By Dr. Samuel Torres
Catholic education has indeed made its mark on society and the global community in order to serve in important and historic eras, such as the era we are in today.
Preparing our students for heaven and higher education has always included a curriculum rooted in values, most especially the value of service to others. Each child explores and understands that they are given gifts as spiritual children of God, and that, made in His image and likeness, they will reflect His goodness and help to distribute His gifts throughout our community and church. We strive to reflect His image and likeness in all that we encounter. Children spend their lives encountering the many facets of a grace filled life.
Prior to the pandemic, our students attended the school campus and followed a routine schedule that provided instruction in math, science, English, and history. When March of 2020 came along, the educational system, private, parochial, and public had to pivot and respond to the stay-at-home order and our schools prepared to teach remotely. Teachers gathered their supplies, brushed up on technology, and created teaching spaces at home. There was a time, that we believed that education would return to “normal” at the end of the school year and, certainly, by the beginning of August of 2020. Each day, we receive updates that remind us that this pandemic continues to allow space for creativity and new methodology in education. What have we accomplished?
Our schools prepared our students for the next grade. Promotions from kindergarten to first grade, first grade to second grade, second grade to third grade and so on. We promoted eighth grade to first year of high school and 12th grade to first year of higher education. With the help of many talented, well-educated, and dedicated staff and faculty we continued to believe in our high standards and the tried-and-true values that have withstood the test of time and for which have served our students through many historic transitions. These credentials stand for who we are collectively in serving our students for the great work of preparing them for their futures, while providing important work for many parents, teachers and staff devoted to “walking the walk” with the next generation of service providers. But what else is achieved in this time of Catholic education?
This paradigm shift has allowed us to reinvent and restructure how we present our faith. Using technology, our schools have had more access to weekly Mass, opportunity for school Rosaries, and many other spiritual expressions of love and loyalty. At the end of a day, our Catholic educators know that they have blended faith and knowledge, while still using the foundations of our faith and values to administer relevant curriculum. Our students feel the support from their teachers, as they have encouraged the students to put their faith into action. Many schools have collected food, clothing, toys, and other essential items needed by families who are struggling financially. Our schools have held prayer vigils for cancer, COVID-19, and other life-threatening situations that have presented themselves in our school communities, while strengthening and building upon the faith communities that are supporting and serving them.
In conclusion, a Catholic education in the Diocese of San Bernardino continues to provide a wonderful advantage for life of any student, while supporting the values of family life. Our students know why they are accumulating knowledge, discovering the gifts, and utilizing talents God is blessing them with, while they explore ways they will contribute now, and in the future to serve others and live wholesome lives. Students perceive the connection of love in all things and look for God’s hand in guiding the community. Students learn about dedication to their spiritual growth and contribute to the spiritual development of others by belonging to a caring school community. The pandemic may have changed how we deliver education, but the outcome remains the same. A Catholic education forms a student who is becoming acquainted with God on a life-long journey, through an encounter with others and engagement in actions rooted in Christian values. I think we would all agree this is a wonderful world to be in, to witness, and to support for many years to come. It also reminds us that God loves us in ways we cannot even imagine. His invitation to bless one another is tremendous gift we celebrate together!
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendant of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.