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Bishop Daniel Felton: As autumn arrives, blessings on students, teachers, and all of us lifelong learners

Autumn is my favorite season of the year! The crisp air of eventide, the beginning of the football season, the brushstroke of colors on trees and bushes, and the harvesting of crops are all hallmarks of an approaching autumn season. 

Bishop Daniel Felton
Bishop Daniel Felton
Believe in the Good News

However, the greatest testament that that we are moving from summer to autumn is the numerous media pictures of children and grandchildren beginning their first day of another school year. Photos capture the beaming, smiling faces of elementary children, with backpacks on their shoulders, as they ready themselves for the school year; pictures of middle school students show not so much a smile as a grimace; and by the time we get to the high school back-to-school picture (if a mom is lucky enough to get one) we see nothing but faces of frowns and pleas not to take anymore pictures … ever. 

In the midst of another new school year with its twists and turns, challenges and blessings, I pray this blessing upon our students and teachers: 

Lord God, 
your Spirit of wisdom fills the earth 
And teaches us your ways. 
Look upon students. 
Let them enjoy their learning 
and take delight in new discoveries. 
Help them to persevere in their studies, 
and give them the desire to learn all things well. 
Look upon teachers. 
Let them strive to share their knowledge 
with gentle patience and endeavor always 
to bring the truth to eager minds. 

(Catholic Book of Blessings) 

I pray for all of our students from pre-school to college who are beginning a new school year at home or in school. I pray for the multitude of students in our parish faith formation programs. I am particularly mindful of the over 1,500 students we have at one of our Catholic school sites throughout the diocese. 

In the 21st century, Catholic schools are not only to provide a very good academic setting, but even more so, are meant to be Schools of Discipleship. As such, our Catholic schools must help students to discover a deep personal relationship with Jesus, to follow Jesus as they are taught the scriptures and catechism, to worship Jesus in the Mass and other prayer and devotional experiences, and to equip students with the tools and skills to witness to Jesus as they call others into a relationship with the Lord. 

Now the amazing thing about Schools of Discipleship is that the learning never ends. It is a lifelong learning process. We may graduate from a high school or college with a diploma in hand. But when it comes to being a student in the School of Discipleship, graduation day will be our passage into eternal life, which is the culmination of our learning how to discover, follow, worship, and share Jesus with others. 

I think it would be fascinating for all of us, no matter our age, to post a picture of ourselves as we begin yet another year of discipleship education and formation. When it comes to getting a picture of your relationship and knowledge of Jesus Christ, are you smiling, grimacing, or frowning? Does the discipleship picture look any different than last year’s picture (or for that matter a picture from 20 years ago)? Did you quit growing with and learning about Jesus a long time ago? 

If so, remember, the life-long School of Discipleship has open enrollment, and with the change of seasons, now may be a good time to engage once again in learning how to discover, follow, worship, and share Jesus with others! 

Bishop Daniel Felton is the tenth bishop of Duluth.