Browsing The Northern Cross

Schools: What is our why? The mission and purpose of Catholic schools

By Jennifer Nagel 
Guest Columnist 

Catholic schools across the nation are wrapping up the 2023 Catholic Schools Week celebrations. As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week with themed dress-up days, service projects, and assemblies, we also need to remember the purpose and mission of Catholic schools. 

Catholic schools educate to develop the whole child. The educational process is an opportunity to cultivate the entire person by engaging the human need for physical, mental, social, and spiritual nourishment. It is the mission of Catholic schools. 

We believe that nurturing the entire person in mind, body, and spirit is necessary for a happy, healthy, and balanced life. Catholic schools provide children with the invaluable opportunity to expand their knowledge, explore their passions, create community, strengthen their sense of self, and come to know God all in one place. 

According to “Your School’s Catholic Identity” (Engel et. al., 2020), our Catholic school identity should be based on “an ongoing reflection, evaluation, and action in our personal relationship with God and our school’s identity as a part of the mission of the Catholic Church.” Learning, practicing, and following our Catholic beliefs — that is what St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School offers, as well as all of the Catholic schools in our diocese. 

A Catholic school’s “why” is based on Jesus Christ and his church, and so the Catholic church is fundamental to a Catholic school’s identity. That fundamental goal is to form students to become citizens that engage with the Catholic Church and community, participate in their civic communities, advocate for justice, contribute to society, and perceive of themselves as important in the larger picture and goal of Catholic identity and therefore Catholic education. 

Our faith practice is not just confined to daily religion class, but it is embedded in our daily practices and Christ-centered school environment. It is integrated throughout the day within the classroom and school with students, faculty, and staff. It is who we are! 

Catholic schools bring faith, culture, and life together in an academically rigorous program infused with Catholic faith and tradition. Catholic education is rooted in the fundamental ideals and teaching of faith and anchored in the mission of the church. That is the essence of what St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School is, and all of the great Catholic schools in our diocese — that is our “why.” 

Jennifer Nagel is principal of St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School.