As promised, here is a photo of an audience with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, May 5. This was taken immediately after the Region XIII Bishops received the Holy Father’s Fourth Discourse to the American Bishops. His topic this time was on the Catholic Identity of our Catholic Schools.

Audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Photo with permission of L’Osservatore Romano.

With this photo, reporting from the 2012 ad limina apostolorum comes to an official close.  As mentioned earlier, the visit was very grace-filled.  It is always a unique grace to be in the presence of the Successor of St. Peter.  Our universal Church is quite blessed to have such a prayerful, wise, and holy man leading our Church at this time.  I continue to find much instruction in his present day preaching as well as in the many writings of his ecclesial career.

On Saturday, he delivered a concise address to the bishops of Region XIII regarding Catholic Education, and of the particular role of Catholic Identity in our Colleges and Universities.  I strongly support our Catholic schools, and wish to encourage our parents to make the worthy investment in providing a Catholic education for your children.

One point that came up in our conversation with the Congregation for Education was that we seem to have lost the ‘tradition’ in America that Catholic education is a ‘ministry’ provided by the Church for any and all who wish such values-driven faith formation for their children.  I remember when I was pastor of a parish in Southern Indiana reviewing our budgets every year.  For some reason, the ‘line item’ for the School showed up as a ‘parish subsidy’ to the school.

I argued with our finance council that Catholic education was a ministry of the parish, just as any other ministry.  The parish does not ‘subsidize’ any ministry; it provides and funds ministry.  It took a while for them and the parish to understand that argument, but in time, we all agreed that the parish provides a Catholic School as a part of the overall mission and ministry of the parish.  This is one clear way that we can make sure that Catholic education is available to all who seek such an education, and not just to the wealthy who can afford it.

Granted, much work needs to be done to find the funding for what is becoming more and more expensive.  But, Catholic schools are one of our best opportunities to make sure that our next generation not only learns the basic tenants of our faith, but in the right atmosphere, learn to assimilate the faith into the very fibre of their being and person.  After all, that is the goal for all of us!