The other day I was attempting to learn how to tie a tie. I have been in religious life for more than 15 years and have not worn a tie since putting on a religious habit. When I was younger, I simply cheated the system and had my Dad tie it for me. Nonetheless being a Naval Chaplain at the United States Naval Academy this year meant that I figure it out as the Service Dress Blues uniform requires a tie, and it is worn frequently here. As a 21st century person, I went to YouTube to learn. I watched a number of videos but could not get it down, so I decided to contact Father Foley, a Priest and a Chaplain for more than 25 years. He came over and was able to show me how to do it in less than 5 minutes.
I tell that story not to embarrass myself over the fact that I was having trouble tying a tie at the age of 35 but to hopefully show the value of what we are all about in education as Catholic schools. The reality is that Google/YouTube can give students an unimaginable amount of information than we can provide in the classroom. However, I would propose to you that as Catholic schools we are not just in the business of downloading information; we are in the privileged position of providing formation. Formation is distinct in that it is dependent upon the individual who is offering the formation to be a witness to the Gospel by an integral life of holiness. Your interactions with students during class, your staying late at the end of a school to help a student, your witness to your personal prayer all form students to become authentic disciples of Christ. Streaming videos (even of Catholic content) can be good things but they can never replace the supernatural value of the living witness of a teacher, campus minister, or Administrator to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Father Foley helped me to do something I could not do before. I did not need another YouTube video. I needed a living person to help me to grow and understand. I pray that during this time all of you are able to become greater disciples and witnesses. I believe that your students need you. They need your witness in concert with the witness of their families in order to become the men and women that the Lord is calling them to be. Do not be afraid to put out into the deep of following Christ and proposing Christ to your students. During this year of profound challenge do not give up on the power and witness of Catholic education. Remember that the work of formation we do not do alone. Rather, the grace of God is available to us and to our students. May the good work He has begun in you and in your schools come to completion.
Fr. Paul Kostka, Servants of Jesus Christ
DIA Chaplain and Chaplain, US Naval Academy