By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PARKVILLE — Don’t look for the wealth of Catholic schools in its buildings, Bishop Robert W. Finn told teachers and administrators from every Catholic school in the diocese Aug. 10.
Most of those buildings were built a half-century ago, and some are much older than that.
And although through the generosity of donors schools have made great strides in educational technology, don’t look for wealth there either. You won’t find the very latest, state-of-the-art gadgetry.
Bishop Finn celebrated Mass to open the Back to School Convocation for Teachers and Administrators on the Feast of St. Lawrence.
He told the educators that the real — and abundant — wealth, not only of the schools, but the entire church — could be found in the same place St. Lawrence found it.
Shortly after ordering the execution of Pope Sixtus II in 258, the Roman Emperor Valerian sent his prefect to order Lawrence, then the financial director of the church, to assemble and turn over within three days all the church’s wealth or face death himself.
“Lawrence returned dutifully before the emperor’s representative three days later surrounded by a throng of the poor and sick of Rome. ‘Here are the riches of the church,’ he announced,” Bishop Finn said.
“Valerian wasn’t amused and St. Lawrence was martyred,” the bishop said in his homily.
But some 1,700 years later, Lawrence’s demonstration still remains true.
“Our Catholic schools, as you know so well dear frends, are full of riches,” Bishop Finn said. “Our wealth beyond measure is in our students, their families, and in you my fellow teachers in faith.”
Bishop Finn reminded the assembled Catholic school staffs that “the mission of Catholic school education is the treasure of the church.”
“Our schools not only form our youth as full human beings, they are a wonderful part of the life of our parishes and the personality of our diocese,” he said.
“Our schools are anchor for our neighborhoods and a promise of hope for our larger community,” the bishop said.
“Here are the riches of the church,” he said. “This is our vocation and call, our daily challenge and our reward.”
But Bishop Finn also reminded the educators that these riches are given from God to be cared for.
“They, our students, like ourselves, belong to God,” he said.
“He has given them to their parents who have first responsibility for their care and nurturing. We are privileged to assist parents,” the bishop said.
“The church sees these parents, children and families as the core and essential building blocks of society,” said Bishop Finn, himself a former school teacher and principal.
“We have them for just a little while, and it therefore is so important for us to scrutinize not only the information we pass on to them, but what of our self and of our faith, they take away from our time together,” he said.
Bishop Finn told the educators that Jesus was a healer, a feeder and a shepherd. But he was also a teacher.
“Jesus not only feeds people with bread and fish. He not only cures them of their diseases. He teaches them. He feeds their minds and hearts with knowledge and love and virtue,” the bishop said.
“If we want to teach as Jesus taught, we will do the same,” he said. “We give our students authentic truth, the light of the Gospel. We nourish their curiosity with sound knowledge. We model virtue and teach them habits of righteousness.
“We bring them to the sacramental life of the church and foster within them the life of God which was inaugurated at Baptism,” Bishop Finn said.
“We help them to experience the paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising, helping them know the inestimable value of sacrificial love, among their classmates, in communion with their parents and siblings, and in reaching out to people that they would not so readily encounter,” the bishop said.
“This apostolic vocation, which has always been a hallmark of our schools, grows as we help them reflect consciously on the experience of seeing and serving Jesus Christ in one another,” he said.
Just as St. Lawrence did, Bishop Finn said.
“St. Lawrence the deacon wasn’t kidding around when he presented to the Roman authorities the outcast and disadvantaged as the wealth of the church,” he said.
“The lesson he intended was perhaps one of the last he taught on this earth. The hungry crowd that is God’s people was so important to the church that St. Lawrence was prepared to give his life for them,” the bishop said.
“Our children are likewise the precious vessels we are honored to fill each day with our energy, our creativity, our listening; with our encouragement, our expertise, our time, our heartfelt love,” he said.
“You are giving your lives to this work,” Bishop Finn said. “I know you won’t hold back.”