Chesterton Academy is response to Kelly’s call-to-action

I have been a fan of Matthew Kelly for a few years. In preparation for a book study group I am going to begin leading at my parish next month, I just finished rereading his best-seller “Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion and Purpose.” This book is the most compelling call-to-action for 21st century Catholics that I have ever read. If you are Catholic and have been away from the church for a while, I encourage you to pick it up and read it.

And you don’t even have to buy the book. The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is conducting a very ambitious evangelization project around the Rediscover theme. It is giving away tens of thousands of copies of Kelly’s book. Go into almost any Catholic church in the area and you will find free copies of the book available to anyone who wants one. I took an extra one for an out-of-town relative and mailed it to him.

Every chapter in the 320-page paperback is filled with ideas worth contemplation. In this essay, however, I want to focus on chapter 19, entitled “Time for a Change.” Beginning on page 277, it opens Part 4 of the book. I have long had an interest in education, serving on the board of advisors for my parish grade school, and being involved in the founding of Chesterton Academy. Kelly has some exceptional comments to make about the state of education today. Consider these direct quotes from the book:

The Catholic education system as a structure is one of the marvels of world history. It is the cause of envy among countless other groups and organizations. Those with an agenda dream of getting access to a system as powerful as the Catholic education system. Why? Because they realize how powerful it could be if it was actually employed. That’s why it is under attack, and why so many people have forced their agendas upon the Catholic education system. All the while, we have failed to use it for the good it was created to produce in students, families, the Church, and society.

Do we want to teach our children about Jesus, the value of virtue and character, and the beauty of the Church? Or do we just want privileged educational environments to teach them what they need to get into the best colleges? Do we want to prepare them for life? Or do we just want to prepare them to become cogs in the global economic wheel? Do we believe that by teaching them about Jesus and the role the Church can play in their lives we are better preparing them for college and for life? Or have we resigned ourselves to the spirit of the world? Page 283.

The Catholic educational system is perfectly positioned to ignite within the hearts and minds of young Catholics a sense of passion, awe, and hunger for truth. It is critical that we reassess at this juncture what we wish to bestow upon those who attend Catholic schools. If it is simply an elite education for a privileged few, then surely we are in direct conflict with the very Gospel that we claim to be guided by. But if we wish to bestow upon our children the values and beliefs that emerge from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, then clearly it is time for a change. Page 287.

…It seems to me – and I may be wrong—that the Catholic education system will actualize its potential not by shying away from all things Catholic, but by doing what it claims to do and offering a Catholic education..

…with so many of our Catholic high school students rejecting the faith in high school or shortly after they graduate—and I assure you the percentage is enormous—it is impossible not to question our current approach… Page 288

Matthew Kelly is spot-on with all these remarks, and it is precisely this kind of thinking that led Dale Ahlquist and me to start Chesterton Academy six years ago. The school will be opening next week with more than 100 students; while we are not an official archdiocesan effort, our school incorporates Mass into the daily schedule, every member of our faculty takes an annual oath of fidelity to the magisterium of the Catholic Church, and our entire curriculum is organized and taught around the mystery of the Incarnation.

The school is growing because many parents are asking the very same questions that Kelly asks. As parents, we are responsible for the education of our children. We don’t get a second shot at this. Our children are teenagers only once. As parents, we have to give this our best effort and Chesterton Academy is the fruit of that effort.

Fall is a marvelous time of renewal. As the new school year gets underway, it’s a great time to renew our faith. The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has given us a magnificent tool in Matthew Kelly’s work. Dig into the book, and then hear him speak at the Archdiocese’s Rediscover event at the River Center in Saint Paul on Oct. 12. Kelly and many other inspirational speakers will offer encouragement for those trying to live their faith.  

 Then, after you’ve studied the book and heard the speakers, think about your life and what you need to do to respond to God’s invitation to come to Him. Live your faith and you, your children and our world will be better off.

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