By Tanya Connor
Catholic education encourages dialogue between faith and culture, and the schools and Church address needs in the world, Jesuit Father Philip L. Boroughs said in a talk March 26 at Mechanics Hall.
The president of the College of the Holy Cross also talked about the laity carrying on the spiritual traditions of religious communities that started Catholic schools.
He was guest speaker for the eighth annual Adopt-A-Student Recognition Dinner, at which students and supporters were honored and received scholarships and gifts.
The following students, highlighted in videos, received these recognition awards: Lexie-Paige Boucher, Holy Name junior, the Charles & Beth McManus Award for Academic Excellence; Gabriella Paolini, St. Bernard’s senior, the Wilfred & Bette Iandoli Award for Service; Grace Clark, St. Peter-Marian senior, the Bill & Kay O’Brien Award for Best Exemplifying the Values of the Adopt-A-Student Program; Sarah Coley,Francesco Cesareo and Robert Pape join Grace Clark; Holy Name senior, the Paul & Dorothy Kervick Award for Leadership.
The Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School Jazz Combo provided music.
The dinner raises money for the Adopt-A-Student program to provide financial assistance to students in the diocese’s central Catholic schools: St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High in Fitchburg, and Holy Name, St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior-Senior High and St. Peter Central Catholic Elementary, all in Worcester.
This year about $75,000 was raised, said Robert R. Pape, Adopt-A-Student steering committee chairman. Over the past 26 years, the program has given more than 1,000 scholarships totaling about $3.2 million, he said.
Father Boroughs asked listeners how many of them attended Catholic schools and spoke about Jesus’ command: “The gift you have been given, give as a gift.” (Mt 10:8)
“The measure of Catholic educational institutions is not what our students do but who they become, and the adult Christian responsibility they will exercise … towards their neighbor and the world,” he said.
Two significant characteristics of Catholic education are the relationship between faith and culture, and the impact religious communities that founded schools have on lay colleagues and alumni, Father Boroughs said.
“While … we have often talked about faith and reason, church historian John O’Malley suggests that culture is a more inclusive referent than reason, since faith not only engages the rational, it also engages … the arts, literature, social behaviors, and cultural values,” Father Boroughs said.
“The Catholic intellectual tradition neither withdraws from the world in fear, nor is overwhelmed by the world and its challenges, but rather engages the world with hope, with expectation, with concern, and at times, with judgment,” he said.
“The Catholic philosophical tradition probes questions of meaning and purpose and ethical behavior, just as theological studies help us to understand how God is at work in history and in the challenges of the present moment.”
Catholic thinkers contribute to the different subjects and Catholic schools urge their students, faculty, staff and alumni to connect what they are learning with promoting the common good, addressing needs and “engaging … issues of justice and peace,” Father Boroughs said.
“Our schools themselves continue to make a disproportionate difference in the world as they so frequently serve vulnerable neighborhoods and immigrant communities, as well as educate more prosperous Catholics to their social responsibilities,” he said.
And the Catholic community’s own international character “reminds us and our economically privileged country of the tremendous needs and critical issues facing the global human family,” he said.
“The Catholic intellectual tradition will affirm social movements or issues which support human flourishing, and at other times prophetically challenge ideas and behaviors which deny the sacredness of life or the importance of human rights and dignity. … We must also acknowledge our own internal struggles to live up to our highest ideals and … our responsibility to address … misconduct.”
Addressing a second characteristic of Catholic education, Father Boroughs said most Catholic schools were founded by religious communities with their own spiritualities, which arose from specific circumstances and needs. In the developed world, religious are aging and their communities diminishing, but laity are “re-appropriating” the communities’ spiritual traditions in ways which sustain their own ministries and life commitments, he said.
Today, religious “are being invited by the Holy Spirit to give the gift of our respective spiritualities freely, without knowing how they will flourish,” Father Boroughs said. “It isn’t easy for us to see our own diminishment, and the act of surrender we are called to is an important ascetical grace. But on the other hand, our lay colleagues who have assumed responsibility for our institutions and even our spiritualities are leading the Church into new ways of living and witnessing to our faith.”
The spiritualities of these religious communities, and lessons learned from their history, provide proven resources for educators and supporters of Catholic education, he said.
Father Boroughs urged students to take advantage of opportunities for study, retreats and service and said the integration of what they learn and how they live will make a difference in the world.
A video about Grace Clark, the sixth of nine children, demonstrated how she volunteers for charities, works at her job, tutors other students, spends time with her family, attends Mass and teaches religious education classes. President Francesco Cesareo of Assumption College presented her with a four-year, full tuition scholarship. The college first presented such a scholarship for the Adopt-A-Student program in 2010.
Mary Lou Retelle, Anna Maria College’s interim president, talked about Sarah Coley’s work and service, at school and in the broader community, and presented her with a full, four-year scholarship to Anna Maria.
Kay O’Brien and John O’Connell received plaques for 25 or more years of service to the Adopt-A-Student program. Bishop Reilly won the iPad-mini raffle and chose a student to receive the other iPad. President Boroughs received an icon of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits’ founder, for his commitment to Catholic education and the Adopt-A-Student program.