By Dr. Samuel Torres
Our Catholic schools remain hopeful in the light of all the challenges and opportunities that continue to unfold. The pandemic has caused a time of reflection. The national and world events are ongoing, as we anticipate and process our feelings and emotions. Our world has certainly been taking a deeper look into social justice, immigration, discrimination and many other issues in these moments of truth and discernment. As we try to get back to the “new normal” afforded us by the arising medical research on the virus that originally sent all of us into isolation, one thing we know for sure is that we are all in this together.
For Catholics, we rely on our Christian upbringing and values to navigate the decisions that affect our lives. The ways of our faith help us to process the change, strife, tragedy, turmoil, success, victory and accomplishment of our lives. Our action is prayer and demonstrative faith in our belief that God is with us and generously distributing His graces where needed. We help each other and search for others in need of our service or prayers.
In our recent past year, we have been asked to adhere to unconventional practices and sequester in our homes. We were asked to bring our workstations and workplaces to our homes. Our children were asked to study from home using technology that was unfamiliar. We were informed not to socialize with other households including our own families. As a society, we began a new set of habits, practices, and patterns. We learned Zoom, Schoology, online learning and virtual medical appointments. These uncertain and difficult times required our patience, sacrifice, innovation and yes, lots and lots of collaboration.
At the inception, we optimistically thought that in one to two months the sacrifice would be over. By August 2020, we saw the enormity of the pandemic loom large, and our new “normal” was to remain home and not to socialize to prevent the spread of the virus. The sacrifices of this new routine was now creating work, school, social and financial challenges. The difficulties have been collective and individual, many with lasting results and all pointing to how much we need each other.
It is now Spring 2021 and there is a likeness of life after COVID-19. What contributed to this change? Our willingness to support and cooperate with agencies that continued to advise and inform what was best for humanity. Our church collaborated with public officials’ efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Our collaboration was rooted in the overall well-being and love of our neighbors, for which we have all been called. The actions that we took were not a result of a government order but the interior calling that reminded us that we must take care of one another. Caring for one another became synonymous with God’s love and care for us. How can we ignore our God especially when He is asking us to care for our brothers and sisters? Collaboration is one of our four core values in the Diocese of San Bernardino. Living the value of collaboration guided us to fill lives with hope during the pandemic and through all times.
During these trying times we have been afforded valuable opportunities for our Catholic schools. We have explored options for parents and guardians so Catholic schools can remain viable and sustainable. During this pandemic, we have reviewed practices for success and renewed our commitment to making our schools as accessible and affordable as possible for the diverse multi-cultural and multi-lingual communities that comprise the Diocese. Our bishops in California confirm that the ministry of Catholic schools is a ministry of the entire Diocese. The responsibility belongs to every parish, to every priest, and to every Catholic regardless of whether they have school aged children. The responsibility for forming future Catholic leaders belongs to all Catholics. We have been tremendously blessed as well by many benefactors supporting the schools. These benefactors recognize their role in supporting young families in the important journey of formation for our young Catholics.
Through this unique and unprecedented time, we have come to know that our Catholic schools are essential, not only for the growth of the Catholic Church but for the advancement of our society. In one sense, our Catholic schools are ‘public’ schools since they educate the general public of all socioeconomic families and the students who attend are destined to be contributing citizens of society. The recent pandemic has surely made a case for the continued resiliency of our schools and the dedicated staff leading them. Together, we are on the quest for excellence. In gratitude we continue our journey knowing that God has sent us many blessings for this unique time.
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.