Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 31, 2016

 As a newly ordained priest, almost thirty years ago, I reported to my first assignment at St. Francis de Sales in McKees Rocks, eager to find out just what I would be doing. One of the first people I met there was the principal of the Catholic school, Mr. Joseph P. Day. He talked about how much he would like me to be involved with the school, and I got the impression that Parochial Vicars always spent a lot of time in the school. I suppose I had misunderstood, which I realized when one of the teachers remarked that I was showing more of an interest in the school than any of the previous priests.

I doubt that it was Joe’s intent to fool me, but it did not matter. I had come to love teaching and otherwise being involved with the school. When I was transferred to St. Gabriel in Whitehall, I begged Fr. Haney for an opportunity to teach and to be involved. It turns out that I did not have to beg, for he expected it of me. At one point, though, I made the mistake of saying that I wanted to enjoy the experience while I was an assistant, for I know that many pastors thought mostly of the headaches that could come with running a school. He told me never to say that. As pastor, he considered the school to be the life of the parish and could never imagine having to be without a school. Now I have been a pastor for more than seventeen years – over half my priesthood – and I full agree with Fr. Haney. One of the greatest blessings of my priesthood is that I have never been without a school. And when I was coming here, the director of the Clergy Office remarked that they knew they needed to send me to a parish with a school. I am thankful that they recognized that aspect of my ministry.

This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, and I am so grateful to be part of St. Malachy School. It truly does bring a lively spirit to our parish, and this week we celebrate what it means to us. But of course the main advantage is what the school brings to our students. Our school offers first-rate academics to our children, but it also offers so much more. Catholic schools go beyond academics to help form the entire person. Obviously a big part of that is spiritual formation. We see our faith at the heart of who we are, and as a result, we see the teachings of Christ at the root of what it means to be human. St. Malachy School supports the parents in forming young men and women who can bring the values of Christ to every aspect of their lives. If I may borrow the slogan from my alma mater, Duquesne University, we provide an “Education for the mind, heart and spirit.”

Our school has had a very good year. Enrollment is up this year, and the students are doing very well. Our faculty excels at teaching and shows a real concern for the good of the girls and boys who have been entrusted to their care. The families are working together to make our school strong well into the future. We have real hope that the St. Malachy class of 2026 (our current three-year-old pre-schoolers) will know that the tradition of a St. Malachy education is still going strong when they send their children to our school.
                                                                                                            Father H