Service Multiplied and Blessed

The September edition of the Western New York Catholic carries a special section describing the various services provided in the Diocese of Buffalo. It is an impressive array: pastoral, educational, health care, and social services. Institutions, programs, and activities are highlighted, but in every instance the story is about people, people who lead, people who serve, people who are served, people who support.

I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you, clergy, religious, and lay, who make all of this possible. May God continue to bless us all, so that the stories narrated in the Western New York Catholic and lived out every day in the eight counties of our Diocese continue to realize an ever more effective experience of God's Church.

Education

At the beginning of the academic year I draw your attention particularly to our responsibilities in education. To start, let me say that if you have not already enrolled your youngsters in a Catholic school or religious education program, stop reading right now and go and do so. Then come back, please, and finish the column.

There is still time to sign up your children.

Parents and guardians, you know that this enrollment is an investment which will pay immeasurable dividends for decades and generations to come. In the threshold years of a new century we are talking roots, we are talking vision, without which our lives are all sail and no rudder.

The phenomenon of our Catholic schools continues to amaze. Standardized tests sponsored by outside agencies, in which our students, Catholic and otherwise, continue to achieve relatively outstanding results, are one barometer.

Academic, physical, and emotional development is critically important and recognized as such. Spiritual development, however, is the key which opens up the distinctiveness of our schools. It is a matter of identity.

We speak explicitly about God, the love of God, from whom we all come and before whom we are all responsible. We celebrate God in the Mass and the sacraments, in our rituals and prayers, in our behavior with one another.

We don't merely post the Ten Commandments. We teach them, and we ask God's grace to keep them.

It is this spiritual vision which illumines the respect and expectations we have for every student in our schools.

I thank all whose sacrifices make possible these wonderful schools: parents, guardians, pastors, principals, teachers, staff, other parishioners. Of course, I am grateful to our students for their superior achievements.

With special appreciation I express my gratitude to our teachers who accomplish so much and make such financial sacrifices in doing so. We continue to work to increase your salaries and benefits, and we must do so. Our fundraising efforts are increasing all the time, our strategies to relieve parishes of other burdens are showing results, and our advocacy for enhanced financial support from government for non-public schools is unstinting: tuition tax credits, investor tax credits (for public and non-public schools), vouchers, mandated services, academic intervention services (AIS), textbooks, library and technology assistance, transportation aid, and teacher development funding.

We do all this with the purpose of strengthening parents' choice in the schools for their children. We do not wish to replace public schools. We want them to improve and we work for their improvement. We believe also that strong non-public schools will make for strong public schools.

Which brings us to our religious education programs for youngsters attending public and other non-Catholic schools. Education without spiritual and religious development is fundamentally flawed. Again I am so grateful to our pastors, directors and coordinators of religious education, catechists, staff, parents and other parishioners for all your work to make our religious education programs increasingly more engaging and effective.

When we speak about the various programs of education in our Diocese, obviously I am deeply grateful to all our workers in the Central Office of Catholic Education. The leadership and service they provide throughout the eight counties of Western New York are a magnificent gift for all our people. You can read more about their services in the special section of this paper.

Closing - Opening

We are richly blessed in the Diocese of Buffalo by the cultivated skills and spiritual commitment of so many people providing pastoral, educational, health care, and social services. At the opening of the academic year I have focused in this column on our educational services. As I close the column, I once again ask God's continued blessings on all of us that we may be open to the Spirit, to realize all that we are and all that we are called to be as the years unfold.

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
August 16, 2001