Catholic high schools offer community in faith

By Pamela Lyons

Earlier this year, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a new instruction reiterating the essential characteristics of Catholic schools. Citing many key Church documents on Catholic education from the past, this new instruction affirmed the importance of a “Catholic educational project” and outlined the “fundamental principles” of Christian education in schools. One phrase, in particular, struck me, as I believe it is one of the many things that differentiates Catholic education from other forms. Citing “Lumen Gentium,” the document noted that Catholic schools are viewed not as an institution but as a community.

One experience that I had a few years ago truly exemplified the meaning of the Catholic community I see daily in the Catholic high schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. A student at one of our schools passed away tragically in a car accident on his way to school one day. His death deeply affected the whole school community, particularly the student’s twin brother, who also attended the school. After the funeral, as the coffin of the deceased young man was being loaded into the hearse, the student body surrounded the surviving brother, linked arms and recited the school prayer. It was an emotional experience to see all of these students physically, emotionally and spiritually joining together to support a member of their school community. In a profound moment of despair, they turned to God and prayed with and on behalf of their friend. Schools worldwide do an excellent job of creating loyalty to their institutions, but how many create the faith-filled Catholic community this student body demonstrated?

As you contemplate the Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of San Francisco for your children, I invite you to visit their websites to learn more about their unique Catholic communities. I am confident you will experience and appreciate that our schools are not so much institutions as communities bound by faith and love of Jesus Christ.

Pamela Lyons is the Superintendent of the Department of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.