What does it mean to be educated?

26 COL Marc Nestorick HeadshotMarc Nestorick is the principal of Bishop Machebeuf High School. He will be ordained to the diaconate June 20.

What do our children need before they graduate from high school?

In my 22 years as an educator, these are two questions I have been trying to answer. For 20 of those years, I tried to find the answer in the public schools with limited success. Throughout that time, I worked towards academic excellence and scored well on tests. I worked to maximize academic time, while at times sacrificing the opportunities for social and real-world opportunities of the students. I looked for every opportunity to improve the numbers (whatever numbers were important at that time). What I have come to realize is that there is more to being educated than what a number can show you.

Now don’t get me wrong, we are in the education business. Results matter and tests are one piece of that component. But there’s more. Education truly is about forming our children in mind, body and soul.

As an educational community we must educate the mind, but we cannot do this at the expense and the absence of the body and soul. Rather, the way to maximize the learning of the mind is to educate the whole child. The three elements cannot be separated. This is where, based upon my experience, Catholic education makes a difference.

Through Catholic schools, students’ minds, bodies and souls are formed so they are prepared to share the Gospel in whatever personal vocation they are called to in serving God. It’s more than a number. It’s more than what can be measured on a test. What number tells you whether a child is prepared to serve God and spread the Gospel?

As parents, we are the primary educators of our children. Catholic schools partner with parents on that journey. Instruction in a Catholic school is not contrary to what is being lived out or taught in a Catholic household. It is designed to support parents in what they are teaching and expecting as Catholic parents.

Instruction cohesively brings together the teachings of our faith with the truth. Faith and reason are merged together. When we teach science in Catholic schools, students learn the same scientific facts as they would in any school. However, there is a huge difference—the teachings of the Gospel and the Church are also taught.

For example, science helps students understand the concept of cloning, but in a Catholic school we can address why cloning humans is morally unacceptable because it denigrates the dignity of the person. We thereby give our students the entire truth—faith and reason combined. Instruction is truly melding together the mind and soul, faith and reason. Students leave Catholic schools understanding the connection between knowledge and faith. In this way, our students go beyond a number on the test.

In addition to educating the whole child in the classroom, Catholic schools incorporate the formation of mind, body and soul into all aspects of school programs. Prayer is incorporated throughout the day, within extracurricular activities, and on the athletic field. Students actively participate in retreat programs and have regular access to the sacraments.

So, what does it mean to be educated? To be educated means to form the mind, body and soul in truth. After many years of looking elsewhere, I found the answer to this question in Catholic schools.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash