This week is Catholic Schools Week across our nation. The theme for this year's celebration is ''Dividends for Life'' - faith, knowledge, discipline and morals. As is well known, the Catholic community in Webster County owns a long heritage of Catholic education that it celebrates locally in St. Edmond Catholic School. This consolidated pre-K through 12 system represents a commitment of the Catholic community, which now spans almost 150 years, in providing for Catholic education. In 1862, when Fr. Marsh established the first Catholic school in Webster County, he was convinced that such a school would prove to be the most effective means for the Church to form children and young people in their Christian faith as well as provide them with a solid academic center. Fr. Marsh had the vision that such an investment in our youths would, indeed, pay ''dividends for life'' - for the individuals being formed, for the community of faith and for the wider civic community. And today the Holy Trinity Catholic community is joined by our many non-Catholic Christian partners in realizing such dividends for life in the Christian formation of our young people.
St. Edmond Catholic School is a value for our Christian community and our civic community because it forms leadership and generates new energy for the Church and our nation. This leadership and energy is molded in a faith-based environment that produces not only scholarship but also moral individuals formed after the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. This moral formation is imperative for our youth to meet the challenges of this third millennium. Far more than did any of our ancestors, these young people will be confronted by the need for serious moral reflection on issues emerging in a post-industrial, increasingly technological age wherein engineering the human genome is no longer a fictional matter.
Such moral reflection does not take place in a vacuum; nor does it occur any longer solely in a monolithic Christian society. Today our moral/ethical reflection is subject to a plurality of philosophies and interests; some of which are antithetical to Christian faith and values. Nevertheless, any moral reflection begins necessarily with an understanding of the matter as we know it in our present circumstance. So Catholic (Christian) schools provide our young people with a rigorous academic education utilizing a broad-based liberal arts curriculum. They are well-equipped with a sound education, but their formation goes beyond ''truth'' as academically understood. Our students are also formed in the ways of the Christian faith and morals. Christian faith and our modern culture are intertwined in all areas of the school's life; and we seek to root our young people in the Gospel message and the values espoused by Jesus himself. Equipped in this way, we hope to ensure that our young people have the foundation to live morally and uprightly in the world today. Our goal is simply this: to form the whole human person, intellectually and morally. After all, science and faith both seek a common goal, namely, truth.
We believe that such intellectual and moral formation benefits not only the individual Christian student; ultimately it also serves the common good of our greater civic community. Catholic schools are about more than conveying acquired knowledge to students and providing them with the intellectual skills to come to new knowledge. Their formation prepares them to engage their civic responsibilities as Christian citizens in a democratic and pluralistic society. Our goal is to produce well-educated and moral citizens who will be leaders in our civic and ecclesial communities.
Obviously, for our Christian churches, St. Edmond Catholic School is a privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out. It is understandably then a primary place of evangelization wherein lively dialogue is encouraged to foster one's faith experience and search for self-understanding and purpose. Our goal is to provide our youth with a safe environment that allows them to explore life's meaning and to develop a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately the school environment is a vital extension of the Church as a community of faith, which exists not only for the service of the Christian community itself but also for the entire human community. Christian service is a demand of the Christian formation at St. Edmond as we require our students to go beyond themselves in living Christ's command to love God and one another.
Of course, the Gaels make their presence known in our community through their extra-curricular efforts in music, fine arts and athletics. What's wonderful is that the all-state athlete lends his or her talent to vocal music and/or band. Who could not but enjoy the successes of such talented athletes and artists who employ their God-given talents for our entertainment and pleasure.
St. Edmond Catholic School could not produce such ''Dividends for Life'' were it not for the tireless efforts of our administration, faculty, staff, coaches and volunteers. Their daily commitment is to the Christian formation of our young people - our pupils are our purpose, our product, and our pride. We are grateful for their service. But no dividends could ever be earned were it not for the parents, parishioners, friends and benefactors (Catholic and non-Catholic alike) who generously invest their time, talent and treasure in support of our mission of Christian education and formation. Thank you for partnering with St. Edmond for your child's formation. Thank you for making such Christian formation available and affordable.
Some might scoff - ''affordable!'' But in this current school year alone more than $470,000 in financial assistance was provided for over 300 students in our total student population of 820. St. Edmond Catholic School student body has representatives from every socio-economic stratum in our Webster County community. As challenging as it may be, our goal is to make available a solid Christian educational and formational experience to those who desire that for their children.
Providing such an experience today and into the future demands a vision and a plan. To this end the St. Edmond Catholic School Board has just embarked on a visioning strategy to set goals and direction for our school's next five years. It is an exciting opportunity to renew a vision born almost 150 years ago; a vision that still is paying ''Dividends for Life.''
But do not just take my word for it, come and visit St. Edmond Catholic School. Simply take a look at the special insert in today's Messenger to see some of the activities planned for the week.
Monsignor Kevin C. McCoy, STD, is interim president of St. Edmond Catholic School and pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Parish, Webster County.