At this time of year, it is common to celebrate Masses of the Holy Spirit. The best known of these are the “Red Masses” celebrated near the opening of the Supreme Court session. Called “red” due to the red vestments worn by the clergy at such Masses, they take place across the United States offering those who work in the law an opportunity to seek divine wisdom and blessing.
Many Catholic schools follow the same tradition in the first week or two after the opening of school, invoking the Spirit upon the school community and its sacred work of educating and forming the young. Beginning with a Mass of the Holy Spirit with the seminarians at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, I have been celebrating a number of such Masses in high schools and primary schools here in the Diocese of Providence.
Praying with our school communities never fails to lift my spirits. Catholic schools have a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence and for robust community life. In the crucible of the pandemic, Catholic schools demonstrated their adaptability and effective local responses to the crisis and its effects. While learning outcomes across the U.S. declined sharply in the aftermath of Covid, testing results demonstrated that Catholic schools had not declined. Instead, Catholic schools saw improvements in learning outcomes. This did not occur because the schools had more financial resources than others.
Other realities provided the foundation for the success of Catholic schools in the crisis. Our schools have a culture of faith that inspires and empowers faculty, parents and students. That faith confers a wider and deeper perspective to our school communities. The pandemic was a frightening time, but it is precisely in the midst of our fear that the Gospel calls us to exercise love and compassion all the more. Our faculty and staff proved the depth of their commitment to students. Our parents engaged with the school leadership to make certain that the learning environment was as safe as possible, while ensuring that the children were together and in school.
As we begin a new school year, I invite all of us to invoke the Holy Spirit for students, faculty and staff at all levels and in every educational institution. We pray that they open their minds and hearts to the wonder of creation and the grace of the Creator. We pray that their learning may take place in a safe environment.
I also ask us to intercede in prayer for our Catholic schools and their unique mission. In a particular way, I will be praying for parents and families in our schools. A key component of Catholic education is its reverence for the sacred role of parents as the first educators and formators of their children. In Catholic schools, we partner with parents in the education of their children. As bishop, I pledge that parents will always have a voice in our schools.
So, take a moment right now as you read these words and pray with me!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. O God, Who did instruct the hearts of Thy faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.