By Dr. Samuel Torres
The cultivation of any dignified society is rooted in personal virtue. Attitudes reflecting justice, fortitude, temperance and prudence govern right action and stability. A society exercising habitual virtues enjoys many freedoms such as safety, respect and personal expression of religion. According to the Catechism of the Catholic church, “the virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.”
All of us want to freely practice the good in our lives. We want this for our children and grandchildren as well as the children of many generations to come. The legacy we leave to them is a healthy and functioning society grounded in the virtues that keep us strong and aimed at goodness and spiritual expression. The glitch remains in that we cannot accomplish this goal alone. This goal will require a daily effort and a collective mindset to ensure that what we are maintaining and protecting will be in place after we are gone.
When I devoted my career in support of Catholic education, I was so fortunate to work on many campuses and found myself among many age groups. I was repeatedly struck by how children and young adults really understand this concept. Children understand that they must pass tests and devote themself to academic achievement, but more than that, building a campus society that is inclusive, respectful and enjoyable required a certain attitude.
Sharing ownership of the school culture requires an investment. In an effort to instill appropriate behavior, students will regularly call each other out. This dynamic is ultimately shaped and cultivated by faculty, staff, administrators, coaches and parents who communicate expectations. Catholic school children engaged in a virtuous school community receive the advantage of personal and spiritual growth in smaller school environments that foster relationships.
More importantly, they are encouraged to help create and maintain a just and welcoming environment. It’s no surprise that they are leaders and influencers after they leave elementary and high school, as seen in the data revealing their volunteer and academic achievements in the society at large.
In a world that often overlooks the God-given blessings that sustain us, Catholic schools have never been needed more than now. Yes, we all want the good grades to reflect a job well done. But even more importantly, we want our children to enjoy school, care about their fellow classmates and teachers, and emotionally and spiritually connect in a way that will help them exercise a values-based life.
The daily contributions we make, our examples and words, are shaping the future. They will imitate our actions and values. A nourishing school environment is within our realm of possibility, but we have to do it together. The society we create and allow them to access has lasting value.
Dr. Samuel Torres is the superintendent for the Diocese's Catholic schools.