Over the past few years, I have been asked several times about what it means to be a Catholic school. Simply stated, Catholic schools make Christ present every day. As an extension of the Church, educating children in the faith and preparing them for Christian witness and action is central to our mission.
What makes the Catholic schools of Winona different? Our vision is to prepare students in faith development and intellectual growth while helping them to become responsible participants in society. Successful Catholic school graduates are not merely career driven; they are Christ driven. After all, if today's young people are learning how to become economically motivated but fail to learn to walk with God, what have they really gained?
In the Catholic schools of Winona, not only do our students learn to think critically, communicate clearly, and research effectively, but they also learn to love, forgive, hope, take responsibility, and work together. A student formed in Catholic education understands the call to love and serve others. Preparing students for a career that pays well is fine; preparing students for a career that is driven by the love of others is a higher calling.
Building a faith-based community is a priority to Catholic schools. We recognize that as important as the individual is, he or she is still a part of something much larger. Being part of a community means looking out for one another, caring for one another, and respecting one another. Catholic schools are generally smaller schools that allow teachers and students to develop strong relationships that last a lifetime.
Catholic educators know that schools play a vital role in building character, teaching leadership, and shaping young minds for productive futures. Teaching the virtues is pivotal to educating our children. If we want our students to know right from wrong, we have to teach constructive habits and teach by example. It is pretty straight- forward. If we want our students to become responsible, we need to hold them responsible. If we want our students to serve others, we need to model service to others. If we want our students to persevere, we need to support and encourage them during challenging times. Teaching the virtues is paramount for Catholic educators, who are committed to helping students understand the ethical way, not the easiest way, whatever the consequences.
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, I am confident that we in the Catholic schools of Winona remain focused on doing what we do best: opening doors in the minds and hearts of students and helping them to live lives of faith, scholarship, and service. That was the focus when we began over a hundred years ago, and that is the focus of our schools today.