On Sunday, Feb. 6 at 11:30 a.m., the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl held mass at St. John Catholic Church and then led a procession to the newly completed St. John Catholic School at 12:45 in Hollywood.
St. John has been rebuilt from the ground up and has now opened to students, eleven months after a 2010 blizzard caused a portion of the school to collapse. The content of Cardinal Wuerl’s remarks and service are below:
“This is a time of celebration both of faith and of Catholic education. We know that at the heart of our Catholic schools is the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
“The Gospel for today reminds us that we are to be the salt of the earth. We are to be the light of the world. Each one of us is called to share the wonderful story of our encounter with Jesus Christ, the meaning of his Gospel and the hope that he is for the world.
“Jesus came among us to tell us of a new way of life and how it involves all of us. In the Gospel of Matthew, he tells us that his kingdom involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit.
“Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and light set on a lamp stand. Later in this same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ.
“Catholic education brings to the young people entrusted to our care the perspective of faith. When we ask, How shall I live, what is the purpose of life, how should I direct my actions, we find our response in Jesus Christ. His Gospel gives us a perspective inspired by the wisdom of God.
“Our Catholic schools are a proven instrument for passing on the faith. We have long recognized the role of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton whose efforts in Maryland in the early part of the 19th century, with the encouragement of Bishop John Carroll, are seen as the beginning of the Catholic system of schools throughout our country.
“Historically the Church has turned to Catholic schools to help carry out her teaching mission. In 2005 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops noted, “These Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated.” (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 2005)
“In a June 2007 address, Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘By educating in the faith, a very important task is entrusted to Catholic schools. Indeed, they must carry out their mission on the basis of an educational project which places the Gospel at the center and keeps it as a decisive reference point for the person's formation and for the entire cultural program. In convinced synergy with families and with the Ecclesial Community, Catholic schools should therefore seek to foster that unity between faith, culture and life which is the fundamental goal of Christian education.’ (Address to Participants in the Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 2007).
“As the bishops’ 2005 statement on Catholic schools states, “We must provide young people with an academically rigorous and doctrinally sound program of education and faith formation designed to strengthen their union with Christ and his Church. The entire Catholic community must now focus on the future and the many challenges we face. We must then move forward with faith, courage, and enthusiasm because Catholic schools are so important to our future.”
“Parents, guardians and students recognize the blessings of an education in a Catholic environment where our faith is the inspiration for the wholesome school culture that encourages academic achievement and also self-discipline, personal integrity and moral values.
“Catholic schools become a gift to the whole community and are recognized as centers of learning that foster personal development and growth enriched with a sense of self-fulfillment and worth and guided by basic and essential moral values.
“As Jesus prepared to turn over to his apostles and disciples a share in the mission entrusted to him by his Father, he empowered and commissioned them to teach in his name. As the Gospel narrative of the life of Jesus concludes, it paints a picture of Jesus sending his followers to share with others the good news: “Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“We are asked to envision ourselves with those disciples who were called to share the good news. We are part of that same body of disciples. Christ continues to remain with us in his new body – his Church – alive in the gift of his Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth. Centuries may separate us from the initial group of followers who were sent as witnesses but nothing separates us from Christ and his challenge to us. Each of us is asked to stand in the midst of our family, our parish and our community, aware of our faith, proud of it and part of the effort to share this wonderful gift. We are witnesses. We bear testimony to the Truth.
“The words “You will be my witnesses” echo in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:8) where we find an account of the early Church. In living continuity since those days, the Church has passed on the words – the revelation – that introduces us to Jesus of Nazareth who is Mary’s son and God’s son, to Jesus who is the Logos – the Word – come among us. Our faith and call to be witnesses are the incentive for our work throughout this archdiocese to share the good news.
“In our structured, organized religious education efforts Christ’s voice is heard today and his Gospel announced. Perhaps it is for this reason that during his visit to the United States our Holy Father addressed Catholic educators at The Catholic University of America and spoke so encouragingly about the ministry of education. He said, ‘Education is integral to the mission of the church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God, who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth. (cf. Spe salvi, 4)’
“In a world that looks for perennial and spiritual values and in a society that appreciates the success of academically excellent education in a faith-based environment, all of you can take great pride in your accomplishments. We should also see these successes as the beginnings of that change, that new creation that only faith can truly inspire and ultimately, with God’s grace, accomplish.
“Looking to the future of Catholic education, we should do so with hope, confidence and enthusiasm knowing that we bring something to those we teach that no one else can. We share the story of Jesus.
“As we bless the new Saint John Parish school building, we also can thank God for the commitment of this parish, the leadership of your pastor and the inspiration that all of the young people in this parish are as we look to the future.
“My hope is that this school will provide the young students who come here an opportunity to experience a fine education, wonderful moral formation and, above all, to have that encounter with Christ and his life-giving message so that it is woven into the very fabric of our human experience.
“Congratulations and God bless you.”