Arlington, VA–Statement from Dr. Karen M. Ristau, president, the National Catholic Educational Association, on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI:
Without doubt, American Catholics will remember Pope Benedict XVI for his great support for U.S. Catholic education.
Parental choice in education has been most important to this pontiff and Catholic educators across the nation are grateful for his leadership and his unwavering belief that “No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”
During a brief but landmark visit to this country in 2008, the Holy Father championed education. He met with all the leaders in Catholic education, offering words of encouragement and thanking us for our service and commitment.
He also made a special appeal to religious brothers, sisters and priests, urging that Catholic education be available to all who seek it and asking them to renew their commitment to the poor and underserved. Taking a page from his encyclical Spe Salvi (Served in Hope) he said, “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals the transforming love and truth.”
To thank the Holy Father for his great commitment and to mark his then 81st birthday, Catholic school and parish students from across the country joined together to pledge more than 1.7 million community service hours in his honor.
Civic engagement has long been a foundation of our Catholic schools and the National Catholic Educational Association organized this “birthday blessings” campaign in that spirit and knowing that we had to find a gift for a man who has everything!
The results certainly touched the Holy Father’s heart. When students and I met with him in Washington, D.C. to present this gift, he was most grateful and thanked not only the students for this outpouring of love and respect, but recognized the teachers, administrators and catechists who encouraged them in their good works.
Just a year ago Pope Benedict reminded several U.S. bishops visiting in Rome of these important messages on education first delivered in the U.S. five years ago. His papacy will be remembered in part for his faithfulness and conviction that an “education in faith” is a right of every child.
NCEA, founded in 1904, is a professional membership organization that provides leadership, direction and service to fulfill the evangelizing, catechizing and teaching mission of the church. NCEA’s 200,000 members include elementary schools, high schools, parish religious education programs and seminaries. Dr. Karen M. Ristau is president.