On January 31st we celebrate the feast of a great saint who is known as “Don Bosco” or “St John Bosco.” I write fondly about him because he is the founder of the religious order to which I belonged for many years before I joined the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was born near Turin in Northern Italy in 1815 and his family was rather poor. His father died when he was about two and he was raised by his pious and determined mother, Mamma Margaret. From an early age John Bosco knew that God had called him to a special mission to the young. After he became a priest in 1841 he discovered the negative effects of the industrial revolution that was sweeping through Europe at that time. Young boys were leaving their homes in the countryside with a dream in their pockets that they would find a better life in the big cities. Often they were exploited by ruthless employers who made them work long hours with little pay. These boys had nowhere to go and eventually fell into lives of crime on the streets.
Inspired by the Divine Teacher and protected by Mary, his heavenly Mother, Don Bosco began to gather these boys in his youth centers which came to be known as “oratories.” Reminiscing on those early years, Don Bosco would say that his work began with a simple catechism lesson. His main purpose was to teach the faith to young people. To that end he began to establish schools, technical schools and youth centers. Out of his first group of young men came a band of brothers who committed themselves to Don Bosco and his mission. This group later evolved into the religious order called the “Salesians of Don Bosco.” Today the Salesians are the second largest religious men congregation in the Church and they serve in more than 180 countries in the world. In collaboration with St Mary Mazzarello, Don Bosco founded a religious congregation (Daughters of Mary Help of Christians) that dedicates itself to the education of young girls around the world. If I am not mistaken, that is the largest group of religious sisters in the Church.
Even though according to Canon Law I am a diocesan priest, I consider myself to be a Salesian at heart. Don Bosco always loved young people and that love for youth inspires and vitalizes my own priestly ministry. Educating the young and teaching the faith are also the priorities that drive me. Now you can understand why our Catholic school and our religious education program are very close to my heart. We just celebrated the First Reconciliation of our second graders and all of us priests were so proud of those children. They were well-prepared and the event was a joyous celebration. I thank Ms. Anna Mae Parkhill, our DRE, and her army of catechists and teachers, as well as Ms. Nell Agnew, our principal, and our school teachers for their hard work in preparing our children for the sacraments.
It is in this context that I would like to congratulate our school as we start the Catholic Schools Week. I am proud of our school which puts faith education on the top of its priorities. Our children have religion every day; they start their day with prayer; they go to Mass at least once a week; God and faith are present in the teaching of various subjects; and they are given opportunities to go to reconciliation during the year. Our school has also proved itself in the field of academics. The winning of the Blue Ribbon award four years ago bears ample testimony to the level of academic competence our students achieve during their time at St Paul’s. Over the last several years I have received letters from Catholic high schools touting the names of students who have made the Dean’s list. Several alumni of St Paul’s consistently make those lists in all those high schools. I have been told that our graduates do very well in high school. Our alumni and alumnae go on to pursue undergraduate degrees in various universities, big and small, all across the country. I am also glad to say that our new principal places great emphasis on the Catholic identity and the faith dimension of our educative project.
My sincere gratitude goes to Ms. Nell Agnew, our principal, and Ms. Mary Therese Iacopelli, our vice-principal, for their leadership in ensuring that our school maintains the highest standards in Catholicity and in academics. I want to thank our teachers who are deeply committed to our children, often at the cost of deep personal sacrifice. I express my heartfelt thanks to the parents who choose to send their children to our Catholic school even though their taxes fund some very great public schools in our neighborhood. Most importantly I want to congratulate our students who strive to be the best by dedicating themselves to their Catholic faith and to their studies. I consider myself specially blessed to have a school as wonderful as ours.
Now I would like to make a personal invitation to parents with little children. I do know that you pay taxes and you have the right to send your children to our excellent public schools. Please give our Catholic school some consideration. Pray over your decision. I can assure you that sending them to our school would be a wise decision. We have an excellent school and your children will be well cared for.
The faith education of all our children is our common mission. Let us continue to support St Paul’s School because Catholic education is an investment in our children that will pay rich dividends for the Church.
May the Divine Teacher bless and keep our Catholic school! May God bless all of you for believing in and supporting Catholic education!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...