| By The Most Reverend Robert D. Gruss

The Treasure of a Christ-Centered Education

Celebrating Our Catholic Schools

Dear Friends in Christ,

One year ago, I shared with you two named priorities in my ministry thus far: Eucharistic Revival and Catholic Schools. In 2023, we continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our efforts.

In this first issue of Great Lakes Bay Catholic, as we prepare for Catholic Schools Week and begin our enrollment season for the next school year, we celebrate Our Catholic Schools. I am pleased to introduce to you some of our Catholic school students, teachers and families from across our diocese. I invite you to consider a Catholic school education for your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. You will find a listing of Catholic schools in our diocese inside this issue on page 29 and on our website. Our building leaders are looking forward to meeting with you to discuss a Christ-centered education for your family.

The value and contributions of Catholic schools to our Church and our nation are well documented. For over a century, Catholic schools in Saginaw have played a vital role in the life of our parishes and surrounding communities. Nearly two centuries after Father Henri Nouvel, SJ celebrated the first Mass in Saginaw, the first Catholic high school came into existence, St. Mary High School in 1868.

Today, our Diocese has 12 schools, including three high schools in which we educate more than 2,000 children.

In April 2022, we began a new chapter in our history of Catholic education with the launching of Our Catholic Schools: Centered in Christ, Committed to Excellence. Through this initiative, it is my hope and dream that we will strengthen and build upon the great work currently being done in our schools, so that our schools will be around for another 150 years and beyond.

It is also my hope and dream that any student in our Diocese who wants a Catholic school education should have one, because as I have said before, ‘I am convinced our Catholic schools remain the optimal setting for educating and forming disciples of Jesus Christ.’

Throughout the Gospels, we always find Jesus teaching his students and us. His overall curriculum lays out a model of living which perfects humanity and gives us fulfillment and happiness in life. This education is at the heart of Catholic schools because it provides and helps students to form Christian virtues which enable them to live a life in Christ and help to build the kingdom of God.

A Faith connected to salvation is part and parcel of the mission of Catholic Schools. Students are taught the importance of a life of faith and how it must impact their decisions, their choices, and their service to the church and wider community. This begins at home in the family, is further developed through a Catholic school environment, and then outwardly expressed through the lived experience of each student. It is in this way these young people can impact positive and moral change in our society.

Academic knowledge alone is not the end goal of the learning experience. Our Church, our culture and our world need living models of faith today, disciples who are formed with the mind and heart of Christ, who are educated and well-rounded in our Catholic faith tradition.

It takes many dedicated people to educate our Catholic school students. I extend my deepest gratitude for our school administrators, faculty and staff, present and past, who have sacrificed so much and who are integral to this ministry in our Diocese. My deepest gratitude for our alumni, our many benefactors and our generous volunteers who see the value in our Catholic Schools and support them in many ways.

I do recognize the great challenges faced by our Catholic schools today. Obviously, there are rising costs, downward trends in enrollment over the years and many other factors as well.

At the same time, I am very excited about our future. With our newly formed Catholic School Council, a strategic plan and two new positions to support the outreach of the Catholic Schools Office – a curriculum and Catholic identity coordinator and a marketing and admissions coordinator – we are poised to face challenges before us head on. I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do for us as we refocus our efforts in creating a new vision for our Catholic Schools.

This work will necessitate the engagement of all of us, schools and parishes partnering together, working on a united front, guided by the Holy Spirit. In doing so, I believe it will lead renewal in our schools … with Jesus as the very center. Now that is an exciting future, if you ask me!

The Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss is the seventh bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.