Browsing The Northern Cross

Jesse Murray: Catholic schools foster love of what is true, good, and beautiful

As a principal, it is my prayer that each student enters their school inspired for greatness. That is God’s plan, right? As adults of the faith, we know that God has a unique and special plan for each one of us. We have purpose and can journey to understand that purpose and plan through our interactions with others and the beauty around us.

Our Catholic schools, guided by the Holy Spirit, intentionally bring people together in an environment to cultivate a love for what is good, true, and beautiful.

schools columnRecently, Stella Maris Academy received a larger than life (7-foot-by-8-foot) painting of Mary visiting young children on the Lake Superior hillside. This realist painting, so natural, so real, so hopeful, and so gentle, greets our children and families every morning, providing them with a gift of wonder and awe when heaven touches earth.

Marquette Catholic School in Virginia, as part of a restoration of beauty in their original third floor auditorium, has St. John’s Bosco’s words of prayer and encouragement eloquently painted on the balcony overlooking the library.

Cloquet’s Queen of Peace school now identifies each class as that of a saint: St. Joan of Arc’s sixth-graders or St. Therese’s second-graders.

When our principals’ meetings are at St. Joseph’s School in Grand Rapids and Assumption School in Hibbing, I love to see the beautiful inner school courtyards put in place during their more recent construction as prayerful, reflective spaces to inspire any soul who enters this area.

Catholic schools and the generous leaders of the connected parishes have not forgotten the importance of beauty through art, story, and space.

There is an excitement to complement the historic (and prayerfully growing) presence of great art, story, and space in our schools. Stella Maris Academy, for example, is studying our curricular approach to education. Our goal is to rediscover the elements of education that elevate student-teacher reflection, expression, and interaction.

Teachers and principals are researching the dis- tinguishing features of Catholic liberal arts education. This year, a team of language arts instructors are exploring an approach to reading, questioning, and discussing great literature referred to as “shared inquiry.” Studies on memorization, Latin, literature selection, virtue education, and religion curriculum are being completed by small teacher teams to use in the development of a plan that will enhance the Stella Maris curriculum and provide the teachers and students the greatest opportunity to cultivate a love for all things good, beautiful, and true.

Other examples in the diocese include a similar curricular shift at Queen of Peace (read Principal Douglas’s weekly bulletin updates in February). The newly developed philosophy statements for art, math, music, and technology are now clearly Catholic and articulate the nobility of learning versus the more utilitarian approach of modern education.

Catholic schools that end at sixth grade are more optimistic about adding middle school, and Stella Maris Academy is continuing to understand how to establish learning opportunities in this great tradition for students in high school.

We receive our inspiration from the people and space around us, all of which God placed with blessings and grace.

If you have contributed to this mission in the past, we thank you for your generosity. If the spirit moves you to more actively be part of this mission, we welcome you. Continue to pray for our teachers, the leaders of this venture, to help souls reach heaven.

As part of your Lenten journey, find a great piece of classical, religious art and study its design, symbolism, and meaning. Pay a visit to your closest Catholic school for a walk through of the halls to see how children think of and share God’s truth, beauty, and goodness. End in one of our beautiful churches, the sacred space where the Blessed Sacrament is present to you in its physical form.

You will be inspired. Your faith will grow, and you will actively join our children, teachers, and their families as they understand God’s plan for greatness.

Jesse Murray is principal of the St. John’s campus of Stella Maris Academy.