February 15, 2019

The search to find the meaning in life drives Catholic education, speaker says

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Feb. 7 honored a married couple and two individuals whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Jerry and Rosie Semler, Virginia Marten and Pat Musgrave. Standing, from left, are archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools Gina Fleming, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and keynote speaker Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

An archdiocesan celebration of Catholic education on Feb. 7 honored a married couple and two individuals whose Catholic values mark their lives. Sitting, from left, are honorees Jerry and Rosie Semler, Virginia Marten and Pat Musgrave. Standing, from left, are archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools Gina Fleming, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson and keynote speaker Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas. (Submitted photo by Rob Banayote)

By John Shaughnessy

As he waited to deliver his talk during the celebration in Indianapolis, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas listened intently when it was announced that more than $6.5 million had been raised in the past year to help children attend Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

Then as he rose to speak, Bishop Kicanas shared a different set of figures—and a story—to express how impressed he is by the legacy of Catholic education in central and southern Indiana.

“You are amazing—182 years of Catholic education in this area, 68 schools and 24,000 students!” Bishop Kicanas exclaimed in his salute to Catholics across the archdiocese during the 23rd annual Celebrating Catholic School Values event in Union Station in Indianapolis on Feb. 7.

(Related: Love of faith, spirit of generosity guide 2019 CCSV winners)

The chairperson of the National Catholic Education Association then shared a story to illustrate the importance of that legacy.

He talked about a 14-year-old boy in a small town in West Virginia who was trying to learn the art of Appalachian fiddling. His teacher had learned the art from an older fiddler, who had learned it from someone else.

“Someone said to the teacher, ‘Why do you do this? You’re not getting any money for it,’ ” noted Bishop Kicanas, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Tucson, Ariz. “The teacher said, ‘I don’t care about the money. My passion is to hand on the music. That’s what I want. I want the new generation to learn what I learned and to delight in it.’ ”

Bishop Kicanas paused before telling the audience, “I suspect that’s your desire, your passion—to hand on this faith, that we have been gifted, to the next generation.”

Discovering a new way of seeing

Calling it “a tremendously important passion in our day,” the bishop outlined the difference that Catholic schools make in the lives of young people.

“What we strive to do in our Catholic schools is to help our young people to discover, to find a new way of living. To understand who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, what is the best way to live their lives.

“Life is not so much about climbing a ladder to achieve power and prestige and privilege. Life is about what you do with this gift of life. That’s what our Catholic schools are trying to do in a modern, secularized society which has its eyes elsewhere. What is at the core and the heart of human life? What are we trying to instill in our young people? I think a new way of seeing.”

The bishop said that Catholic schools strive to teach students to look “beneath the surface to the meaning of all things.”

“In our Catholic schools, we call upon our young people to see the divine presence that C.S. Lewis talked about, lurking everywhere.

“Our Catholic schools are so critical to helping our young people discover a new way of seeing—a sense of peace and justice, that all human beings are created in the image of God, that life is to be protected from conception to death.”

In closing his talk, the bishop shared one more story.

“I remember one time riding along in Tucson. There’s never a traffic jam in Tucson, but this time there was. I was late for a meeting. I was very anxious. And I looked up and there was a truck in front of my car, stopped of course. And I started looking at the back of the truck, and it said, ‘We are patient. We are resolved. We are determined. We will not falter. We will not fail. Let’s roll.’

“That’s what I want to say to you tonight after 182 years of Catholic education. … We are determined. We are resolved. We are patient. We will not falter. We will not fail. Let’s roll and keep this great tradition of Catholic education alive in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.”

‘Centered on the person of Jesus Christ’

The impact of a Catholic education in the archdiocese is reflected in the success of the 1,432 Catholic high school graduates from the Class of 2018, noted Gina Fleming, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.

Ninety-nine percent of the students graduated. They performed about 116,000 hours of service. And they received more than $180 million in merit-based scholarships to college

Still, during the celebration, Fleming told the audience, “We must remember that our Catholic schools do not exist simply to prepare young people for college and careers, but for heaven. We exist as a ministry of the Catholic Church to be able to share the Good News while remaining centered on the person of Jesus Christ and the teachings of our Church.”

She also thanked the audience for helping to make Catholic education a reality for students who need financial assistance to attend Catholic schools.

“Without your financial support, in addition to that which is provided through the archdiocese and its parishes, most of our students would not benefit from the holistic Catholic education we offer,” Fleming said.

During the celebration, two individuals and a married couple were honored by the archdiocese for the way they represent the values of a Catholic education. Virginia Marten, Pat Musgrave, and Jerry and Rosie Semler received Career Achievement Awards. (See related story below.)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson presented the awards. Closing the evening’s program, the archbishop noted that the event has raised more than $40 million for Catholic education in its 23-year history.

“On behalf of the thousands of children who have been able to receive a Catholic education, thank you for your generosity,” Archbishop Thompson told the audience.

He then offered a parting prayer, tying in with Bishop Kicanas’ recognition of the 182-year legacy of Catholic education in the archdiocese. The archbishop noted “all of those who have gone before us and all of those who through their blood, sweat and tears have made it possible for us now to carry forth this mission of Catholic education.”

The archbishop ended his prayer by sharing a hope with God:

“May we seek always to glorify you in all things. May we seek through this great ministry of our Church, this great gift of our Church, to not only educate minds but form hearts, that we continue to lift up the dignity of life, the sacredness of every human being, and that we continue to recognize how we are called to not only be good members of the Church but good citizens in our communities.” †

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