In recent years, Pope Benedict XVI exhorts the entire Church to rekindle a spirit of a “New Evangelization.” In a particular way, the Holy Father challenges Catholic school teachers to participate in the Church’s evangelizing mission as they come to understand their profession as a vocation and their calling “supernatural.”
Here at St. Mary of the Assumption School in Upper Marlboro, MD we whole-heartedly embrace this supernatural vision and participate in the formation of our students, helping to nurture them into good citizens of this world, loving God and neighbor and enriching society with gospel values; and most importantly, with God’s help, we prepare the boys and girls to be future citizens of heaven, thus fulfilling their destiny to become saints (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, pg. 8).
We are aware of the bishops’ concern that education can be seen merely as an instrument for acquisition of information that will improve the chances of worldly success and a more comfortable standard of living, or for elementary schools to simply prepare children to compete well for admittance into a desirable high school. Such an impoverished vision of education is not Catholic.
Our school community embraces a Christian anthropology. Catholic theology teaches that grace builds on nature. In terms of curricula and pedagogy, this worldview allows us to see every person, every subject, every activity and even the physical building as opportunities to teach the truths of the faith and foster its practice. We take special care to avoid the error that our Catholic identity and religious instruction is limited to the time/space of our catechism classes and religious-education program. Such a position would foster the misunderstanding that faith and life can be separated.
To our parents, we affirm that you are the first educators of your children. You have the original, primary, and inalienable right to educate your children. Parents, by definition, are educators. At the same time, most parents share their educational responsibilities with other individuals and institutions, primarily in the context of schools. It is in this philosophical framework that we happily and gratefully accept your children and partner with you in their education (cf. John Paul II, 1983, Letter to Families, pg. 16).
It is our mission, here at St. Mary’s, to teach the whole child, providing an excellent education, preparing them to be successful in this world, while keeping their “eyes fixed on heaven.” In other words, Christ is not an afterthought or an add-on to our educational philosophy; we embrace as the Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB, Secretary for the Congregation for Catholic Education reminds us, “Christ is the center and fulcrum of the entire enterprise, the light enlightening every boy and girl who comes into [our] school.”
It has been my privilege to be associated with St. Mary of the Assumption School. I joined the school community in 1993 as a parent and in 1994 as a teacher. So it is with some depth of experience that I can attest to the special attributes and traditions of our fine school. My own children have graduated from St. Mary’s and, like all our graduates, have gone forward, well prepared for high school and more importantly, well prepared “to make free and correct choices and able to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life” (cf. The Catholic School, pg. 31).
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank our parents, grandparents and guardians who are so generous and so benevolent. Indeed, so much of the success of what we do here hinges upon your support. I’m especially grateful for your prayers. The climax of every week is when we gather together as a community of faith to celebrate Holy Mass. When the children and the entire faculty and staff gather on Friday mornings and worship together around the Lord’s altar, it is literally priceless!
There is so much more to say about our improved facilities and enhanced curriculum. Every teacher brings a special dimension to the school and every class has a special character. As I enjoy working with my staff and all our families, I always enjoy meeting new prospective families and potential new staff members, as well. Please don’t hesitate to call me, send me an email or better yet, stop by the school to meet me. I would love to meet you and tell you more about St. Mary of the Assumption School.
Dr. Steven M. Showalter