A reflection on our school year annual theme.
Fr. Tom McDermott, pastor of St. Columbkille and St. Joseph the Worker parishes in Dubuque, shares his perspective on Holy Family’s 2018-2019 school year theme, Witness for Christ, and his suggestions for the ways in which we each might witness for Christ in our daily lives as Catholic school families.
Hello, Holy Family Catholic Schools families!
It is good for a former farmer from south of Epworth to be back in the Dubuque area. It’s even better to be part of the heritage and vibrancy of St. Columbkille and St. Joseph the Worker parishes! And as a graduate of Beckman High School in Dyersville, it is particularly exciting to be in the midst of all the good things going on in our Catholic schools here.
It is this relationship of the school as part of the parish that jumped out from the readings on the weekend I write this. Jesus admonished the disciples for hindering the access to Him of children and the child-like in dependence upon us. Parishes sponsor schools in part to offer our children the most comprehensive access to Jesus that one can. I applaud the parents and all who make the sacrifices asked of you to give our children this opportunity. But their access to Jesus – as is true for all Christians – is to make them not “consumers” of religion, but missionary witnesses to His presence and importance in their lives!
It is no accident that theme in our schools this year is “Witness for Christ.” The witness of youth engaging in parish life has great and needed power to energize the faith-lives of fellow parishioners – to return the witness parishioners give supporting their school.
So how can – must – Holy Family school families witness for Christ in our parishes and community? I offer you my three “Ps” of parishioner-witness:
Participation: Christ came to share in all our human experiences – including death – as the foundation of our trusting that whatever seems to be separating us from life or loved ones, is not! Participation in the financial support of, or any of the ministries, committees, leadership or serving roles of one’s parish, is where we witness to and extend that experience of “Christ is about life together.” It is easy for the school to replace parish as one’s primary faith-community. If not participating in parish committee work, please make sure you and your children are in a ministry for Mass.
Presence: The Gospels make clear that disciples of Jesus sign up for a challenging life: Love your neighbor as yourself; Forgive as you want to be forgiven; Give away all that you have and follow me; and more. In a world where faith is ever-more challenged by our culture, the wisdom of Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me,” about celebrating the Eucharist is all the more clear. Your presence at Mass gives two kinds of witness. First, others can look around at Mass and say “I’m not crazy for believing what the Eucharist proclaims – the (your family name) is here.” Second, you prepare your children to be present to witness with parish support when a future generation needs their help to make a Catholic school possible.
Prayer: Much of one’s faith-life is between oneself and God – prayer in particular. But presence at Mass is also a time to witness to what is within by joining in the “Amen” or shared prayer and especially songs of the liturgy. When time or funds are in short supply during a household’s school years, witness of prayer at Mass may be all a family has to share. No less importantly, family participation at weekend Masses prepares children to witness to their faith in the more challenging peer environment of school Masses. What a deal! You get to “double down” on witness to Christ in prayer!
Witness for Christ through Participation, Presence, and Prayer in your parish. You will find it fruitful in your family, and for your parish-family as well.