Archbishop John C. Wester's Blog Tuesday's Tapestry

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Please join me for the Annual Catholic Schools' Week Mass on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 10:00 am in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe.

Teaching as Jesus Did

As we approach Catholic Schools Week, I find myself reflecting on just how much a Catholic education means to me. My love for Catholic schools goes way back to 1958 when I accompanied my mother to visit Sr. Claire Maher, OP, the principal of Our Lady of Mercy grammar school in Daly City, CA. We had recently moved and Mom and Dad were eager to have me attend Catholic school. Despite the fact that this was a double grammar school with approximately 50 students in each class, there was no room for me at that time. As we drove home I remember my mother wiping her eyes and I asked her what was wrong. She told me how disappointed she was that there was no room for me. As it turns out, I was accepted the next year and spent the next five years at Our Lady of Mercy, followed by 12 years in the seminary, and several more years in Catholic graduate schools. There is no doubt that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Catholic education, and in particular, to all those wonderful teachers who mentored me and taught me along the way. What is more, I taught in Catholic high school for eight years, followed by two years of ministry in the Catholic Superintendent’s Office in San Francisco. Little wonder, then, that Catholic schools mean the world to me and I am deeply committed to their success, especially here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

It is not just my personal connection with Catholic schools that motivates me to support them. Rather, in looking over the statistics and in talking to our splendid superintendent, Ms. Susan Murphy, it is immediately apparent that our Catholic schools are “delivering the goods.” Here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, we have a total of 4,074 students, of whom 91% are Roman Catholic. We are blessed to have 425 full-time teachers in our schools, which boast a graduation rate of 99% with 98% of our graduates participating in higher education. As you would expect, all of our schools are accredited. In addition to the core curriculum all schools offer music, art, physical education, technology, a sports program, and many other extracurricular activities. When it comes to grades and academic achievement, our schools are at the head of the class. St. Pius students score above the National and State level on their ACT’s. Over 90% of our eighth grade students are at the mastery level of the New Mexico state standards. Our schools consistently score above the national average on the ACRE test which measures knowledge of the Catholic Faith. Equally important, research shows that Catholic school students develop more effective academic skills and score significantly above the national average on standardized tests.

While these statistics are truly noteworthy, I am especially impressed by our archdiocesan schools because of their commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is this commitment that makes them so successful. Our schools are communities of faith where each student is cherished and affirmed as a person made in the very image and likeness of God. These are communities that are Christ-centered and seek to provide the best spiritual and academic formation for each child’s mind, soul and body. Catholic Schools provide opportunities for the reception of the sacraments, retreats, celebrations of the liturgical seasons and prayerful reflection on students’ personal faith journeys. For the millennial generation (born after 1982) individuals are nearly eight times more likely to attend Mass one or more times per week than those adults who did not attend a Catholic school (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA, 2014) ). In the United States, the Catholic school continues to be one of the Church’s most effective instruments for passing on the faith from one generation to the next (CARA, 2014).

For reasons relating to our Catholic faith and to excellence in education, there is clearly a strong case to be made for supporting our Catholic schools in this local Church. As you already know, it is not easy to maintain our schools in the current environment. There are many economic and demographic challenges that we face in keeping our schools open and thriving. That is why it is important for all of us to come together and support Catholic education in this archdiocese. The responsibility for maintaining, fostering and developing our Catholic schools does not belong solely to the local parish that has a school, nor to pastors of parishes with schools, nor to Catholic parents with school-aged children. Rather, this responsibility belongs to every parish, whether having a school or not, to every priest, whether a pastor with a school or not, and to every Catholic whether they have school-aged children or not. The responsibility for forming future Catholic leaders belongs to all Catholics as we seek to fulfill our baptismal commitment in promoting the faith, nurturing our children and contributing to the common good.

I encourage all Catholics to take a good look at our Catholic schools and to support them in any way possible. Your generous contribution to our scholarship programs is one very good way to do this. Another way is to support our schools by volunteering either as a teacher’s aide or by helping students after school. Many of our Catholic retirees have wonderful skills and knowledge that they can share with our students. I have been impressed by those scientists here in New Mexico who in their retirement spend time teaching mathematics, science and technology to our students. These wonderful volunteers tell me that they get as much if not more out of what they do than what they give. Whether it is by giving of your time, talent or treasure, I invite all to seriously consider actively and intentionally supporting our Catholic schools. It means a lot to me personally and it means everything to our marvelous teachers, staff, students, family families and alumni. What is more, it means everything to our Church. I hope that you will consider how you can support our Catholic Schools and that you will be supportive of our efforts to “Teach as Jesus did.”

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Most Rev. John C. Wester

Archbishop of Santa Fe

The Great Gift of Life

As we begin a new year, I am reminded of the great gift of life that God has given us, and the gift of our stewardship of all life. Everything we do with this great gift of life is marked by time that either seems to go too slowly, or too quickly. There never seems to be enough time!

I am also reminded that people of faith look at time differently from how others might look at time. Greeks had two words for time. Kronos time is the sequential, chronological march of time, marked by seconds, hours, days weeks and years. Kairos time, or “God’s time” is the unfolding of our journey of faith, of God’s revelation to us, of “re-membering”, putting back together what is broken apart. God’s time is not sequential. Sometimes God breaks into our lives with moments of revelation. Sometimes we wait for God for what seems like an eternity. Whatever it seems to us, God’s grace is present no matter what, working in all of us, wherever we are in our journey of faith, always inviting us to deeper relationship.

It is this Kairos time that comes to mind when I look at what is before us in January. January marks many events: The Vatican’s World Day of Peace, National Migration Week, Epiphany, the commemoration of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the opening of the 2017 New Mexico legislative session, the anniversary of Roe V. Wade and the Sanctity of Life Awareness and Unity Day Mass/March/Rally, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Catholic Schools week. Many of these events focus on the gift of life, and our call to protect life in all its stages. I am reminded of the Scripture passage from Deuteronomy:

Catholics consistently choose life at all stages. We choose life by protecting children in the womb from abortion. We choose life and walk with women and men who choose to heal from their involvement with abortion through Project Rachel post-abortion healing ministry. We choose life when we support families and the social and educational networks that help to raise healthy children. We choose life when we support immigrant families, unaccompanied minors and refugees who come fleeing violence in their home countries. We choose life when we support people living in poverty, people who are hungry, people who are in prison, people who are victims of human trafficking. We choose life when we support the elders of our families and communities, and commit to walking with them at the end of their lives with dignity. The Church is here to journey with all Her children, wherever they are. We choose life!

We also choose life when we advocate for just laws. The Church consistently advocates for laws that protect the unborn, children, immigrants, those who are disabled, elderly, poor or vulnerable. Last June, the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld New Mexico’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide. However, there is discussion by some State Representatives to introduce a doctor-assisted suicide bill in the 2017 legislative session.

At our Fall meeting in Baltimore, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chair of the Pro-Life Committee, challenged us all to renew our fight against doctor-assisted suicide. He stated, “Every suicide is tragic, whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick. But the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are deemed a positive good. We remove weapons and drugs that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other, setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination. This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection. The act of prescribing a fatal, poisonous dose, moreover, undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients.” It is important to note that the New Mexico Medical Society, the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the National Council on Disability, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops and many more groups oppose doctor-assisted suicide.

To make matters more confusing, those that support doctor-assisted suicide use names like “death with dignity,” “aid in dying,” or “compassion in choices,” because they mistakenly believe that allowing someone to end their life on their own is a dignified action. However, there is no dignity or compassion in assisted suicide. Cardinal Dolan goes on to say, “What seriously ill – and often depressed -- patients need is authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days. Patients need our assurance that they are not a burden -- that it is a privilege to care for them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day. A compassionate society devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives.” As Kronos time numbers our days, it is good to remember that Kairos time promises us that God is always at work in our lives, even in our vulnerable and dying moments, perhaps most especially then.

Catholics must join medical professionals, disability rights groups, and other concerned citizens in fighting for the authentic care of those facing terminal illness. I encourage you to participate as a faithful citizen in the discussions around doctor assisted suicide and learn more about this important issue. To read more about the USCCB statement To Live Each Day With Dignity: A Statement on Physician Assisted Suicide go to the USCCB web site, www.usccb.org. Several inspiring and short real life videos are also on our Archdiocese of Santa Fe web site for your viewing Here is one: http://bcove.me/tglb13es.

To you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter this new year praying especially for those who are seeking a new home, I ask the Christ Child to raise His arms of benediction over all of us in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as we grow closer together in the powerful ways of love. May the love of Christ that appeared to us on that first Christmas night, carry us powerfully through this life into eternity.

As a healing nation, let us become the visible face of enduring mercy and love.

Credits:

Retablo: Arlene Cisneros Sena Photos: Leslie M. Radigan/ASF Celine B. Radigan/ASF

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