In an effort reminiscent of ancient Israelites who took up the traditions and icons of their neighbors every time they were afraid God wouldn't or couldn't help them with their troubles, New York and Washington DC Catholic dioceses have given up their right and duty to train up children in the way they should be - in return for public funding. DC Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, converted seven of the District's 28 Catholic schools into secular charter schools in 2008. Now, a Catholic archdiocese in Indiana plans to change its parochial schools into public charter schools this next year.
In order to do this, the diocese must agree not to teach the kids anything at all about God, and remove every decoration or figure that is associated with Christianity. In Indiana, this includes removing large limestone crosses that are part of the outside wall of the buildings.
Now, I'm not big on statues and icons. However, I am even less big on turning ones back on what one believes for the sake of a monetary goal.
I understand from reports that the Diocese believes this is necessary in order that the schools stay open in needy communities. In other words, the Diocese has decided that a neighborhood academic experience is more important to the well-being of these children and communities than knowledge of Jesus Christ. Does this Diocese not believe in the full teaching of the Gospel? If not, perhaps they are correct that they as a team should not be teaching it.
This isn't about Catholic bashing. This is about one group of Christian leaders making a very wrong decision. I was raised in Catholic schools. My aunt, a Franciscan Nun, taught in a Catholic high school most of her life. We, as Christians, have been instructed to teach children the Good News. Catholic schools, I had thought, were founded with the express purpose of doing just that.
I can't believe any truly believing Christian would agree to take a prayerful school and turn it secular for the purpose of collecting government money.
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6
"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:7
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4
In the first place, the 'government' can't afford to be funding everything. Its going bankrupt, remember? As citizens, we need to be finding creative ways to make ends meet without depending on the government.
Secondly, there are wonderfully creative ways to teach children with little money. Ask any homeschooling mother. I also remember my mom telling me the story of her first year at a newly built Catholic school in the 1940's. The classrooms hadn't been completed yet, so they gathered in the cafeteria and separated the classes by hanging blankets. She remembered that year fondly.
In other words, get over the idea that everything that you think is needed is really needed.
But thirdly, and most importantly, God does tremendous things through prayer. Have none of these people ever heard of George Mueller? For those that don't know, he fed hundreds of orphans through the years totally through faith and prayer. Some of the ways the Lord answered and provided were truly miraculous. There are many other examples of brave prayer warriors through out history. What Mother Theresa was able to do through faith and determination was amazing. Leaving God out of her ministry was not an option.
Haven't any of these people read the Bible? Don't think prayer can do the job? Believers know that God answers prayer. Sure, sometimes the answer is "no." But if it is, then praise God for putting a hold on something that might not have been the best idea in the first place. He sees things that we don't and has the ultimate wisdom as to how to accomplish needed goals - including the best way to teach children. But other times, when we are headed in the right direction, the answer is a miraculously yes.
Our family has had several experiences. Fifteen years ago, while my husband was driving across country, I waited at home and prayed. He was on his way to pick up four of his relatives' children that were suddenly and unexpectedly in need a home. I prayed about how we would feed them when we could barely feed ourselves. But it was an emergency and my husband knew he had no other choice but to jump in the car and go. The next day, straight out of a George Mueller play book, a friend, unaware my husband had left to pick up children, showed up with a car full of supplies, including a summer's worth of blue diapers. I didn't have a small boy in my home that needed them...but my husband would be bringing an 18-month old boy home in a couple days. They were just the right size.
Apparently, a grocery store Semi had overturned at the corner in front of our friends house. The driver had told him to go ahead and gather the products strewn all over highway.
That event has always amazed me and I love to tell the story. Did I mention that the diapers were even blue, not pink? (this was during that brief period that they were selling them that way) Amazing - God having fun with even the smallest details.
Five years later, we were praying that if the Lord wanted our family to help at a Children's home in Juarez, Mexico, he would provide a comfortable way for my husband, who was dying of bone cancer, to travel. That little boy with the blue diapers, now six, prayed that the Lord would give us an RV. After the prayer, I gently told him that we could pray for help, but it's not right to ask for things so bluntly. A week later, a woman called and asked if she could give us a huge, 10 bunk RV. Needless to say, we went on that Children's home in Mexico.
Others might doubt God's providence, but those experiences, as well as a few others, spoke quite loudly to me.
That isn't to say that I've never forgotten, gotten scared, and gone ahead without prayer - making a bad decision that I later regretted. But...at the very least, I would be terrified to take a step such as the one these dioceses are making - To decide government funding is a priority over teaching Jesus Christ to the children. I would be terrified as to the consequences that the leadership is bringing on themselves.
Even the thought of taking such a step is stomach turning. I pray that the Indiana diocese prayerfully rethinks turning its back on the spiritual needs these children have. One would hope that the faithful of the church in Indianapolis will not follow in the ways of New York and DC, but would instead pray for God's providence, leaning on the Lord rather than turning their back on Jesus and depending on the government.