A Bishop's Take on Parents' Mission

Education for Holiness

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Here is the latest column by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, published originally by the Southern Nebraska Register.

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I cannot imagine the joy of being a parent. A parent cooperates with God in the creation of new life. A parent experiences the gift of a newborn child, and the grace of raising that child into adulthood. A parent shares in the love, and the responsibility, of God the Father.

My own life is filled with joy—I am blessed by God beyond measure. And I am graced, in real ways, to be a father. A bishop is called to be a father to his priests, and to be a father in faith to the men and women of his diocese. I’m blessed in that vocation. But I appreciate the unique grace, and the unique challenges, of the vocation to Christian parenting.

A parent cooperates with God in the only goal which finally matters: bringing souls into union with Jesus Christ—forming them for Christian discipleship, supporting them in their vocations, and preparing them for eternity in the company of the Trinity.

The joy of being a parent must be profound. But the responsibility is also profound.

To fulfill their responsibilities, parents must ensure that their homes are places of prayer and discipleship. They must model commitment to the Gospel, and dependence on the sacramental life. And parents must form their children—must educate them—with fidelity to the reality of who they are, and who God made them to become.

Education depends on knowing who we really are, and who we’re made to become.  We must know what a human person really is—what freedom is, and choice, and dignity. We must know who God made us to be—we must understand sin, and redemption, and charity, and sanctity. To educate well, we must know that we’re called, each one of us, to one ultimate vocation—holiness.
We are sinners. We are beloved children of God, created in his image. And we are men and women—created uniquely, created beautifully, and created for communion with one another. We are created for communion in this life—in our families, especially—and we are created for communion in eternity, with God.

If we do not understand those fundamental truths, we have little hope of forming or educating children for a lifetime of holiness. Of course, each person is different.  Each person is given different graces, different gifts, and different crosses. But each of us is subject to the confines of reality. None of us can escape the truth of our being.

The mission of formation—and the vocation of parents—is to help souls pursue transformative sanctification, so that all we are is transformed and refined and purified to reflect God’s glory.

When parents partner with others for the education of their children, they have a responsibility to ensure that their partners—schools, teachers, coaches, even—will support their mission and vocation.  Parents have a responsibility to ensure that their schooling choices won’t undermine the profound responsibility to which they are called. When schools don’t support the vocation of parents, or when they reject the fundamental truths of human identity, parents have a responsibility to work for change in order to protect their children.

I’m proud that the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Lincoln are created to support the mission of sanctity. I’m proud of our teachers and administrators. I’m proud of our parents. Of course, every system is called to continue to improve, to be renewed and reinvigorated, and to reconnect with its fundamental mission. But when parents partner with our schools in the mission of Christian formation, they can be assured of this—our schools know who their children are. And they know who they’re made to become.

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