By Matthew Vereecke
Special to The Texas Catholic
Within the Diocese of Dallas, we have two very important goals for Catholic schools: we want to make sure that every student entrusted to our care has the ability to reach college and heaven. It could be argued there is no better time to assess those goals than at our high school graduations. I have the privilege to attend these graduations with Bishops Burns and Kelly, and my fellow Superintendents Sister Dawn and Dr. Veronica Alonzo. It is impossible to avoid being moved by these events: we get to see the next generation of leaders beginning to put their faith and education into action, while their awards, accolades and acceptances to top colleges, seminaries and the service academies are all announced and acknowledged publicly.
These graduates should make all of us in Dallas proud. Whether it is record-setting scholarship offers at John Paul II and Bishop Lynch, 37 students at Bishop Dunne being the first in their family to attend college in addition to record-setting scholarship offers, or our first graduating class at Cristo Rey walking across the stage at the Meyerson Symphony Center, their accomplishments are made possible by families who strive and sacrifice, the generosity of our parishes and the private donors who believe Catholic Schools change lives. It truly is a service of the church here in Dallas not just to Catholics, but to all who believe in better opportunities for our community.
It is easy to quantify these academic successes because of the catchy numbers and economics of it all. But it would be a mistake to simply push the idea of the outstanding ACT and SAT college-readiness scores that far exceed state and local averages, or to rely on scholarship dollars and ivy-league acceptances as the only important metrics for our high schools and for our students. The most inspiring aspect of graduation is that when our valedictorians give their remarks and addresses, not a single one of them pointed to her or his double-digit acceptances to college, or ACT scores, or grades, or service hours. To a person, each valedictorian talked about friendships, teacher-mentors, faith, connections to God, and authentic experiences of service to the others. The message was simple: unquestionably, you are going to get a fantastic preparation for college at our Catholic high schools; however, it is the preparation for life that sets these experiences apart.
It is important to remember when you see a graduate in the coming weeks that the journey is only half finished. Catholic schools helped give our students the ability to reach college, but it remains all of our responsibility to make sure that these young adults are encouraged in faith and offered guidance on the continued road to heaven. As such, make sure that you acknowledge the accomplishments thus far, and make sure they know we will be with them on the road ahead.
Matthew Vereecke is the superintendent of the Diocese of Dallas Catholic Schools.