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The Year of Faith: Giving Thanks for Our Catholic Educational Heritage

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

November 2012


“The Year of Faith: Giving Thanks for Our Catholic Educational Heritage”

Last weekend, Associate Superintendent Patrick Lofton and I had the privilege of participating in the 150th anniversary of Catholic education in Beaver Dam.  We arrived at St. Katharine Drexel Church in ample time to be seated among the current faculty and staff of SKDS, former teachers—including many School Sisters of St. Francis—and countless supportive parishioners.   Rhythmic drumbeats and a Native American dance procession, with children and young adults in native headdress, preceded the Saturday evening liturgy at which Bishop Donald Hying presided.  Following the Mass, participants were treated to a tour of the renovated school building and a “homecoming” Thanksgiving dinner.

Beaver Dam and our many other rural school locations hold a special place in our Catholic educational history and heritage.  Those who minister in these places are often teaching the third or fourth generations of faithful Catholics whose ancestors valued their faith so profoundly and with such a spirit of sacrifice that they built their school soon after, or sometimes even before, they constructed their church.   Evangelization was at the core of their intentions, their efforts, and their priorities.

During this month of November, as we celebrate the Year of Faith, I encourage everyone, in each of our ten counties and in every demographic situation, to study, reflect on, and give thanks for those whose vision and commitment paved the way for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as we know it today. 

Each of our schools has its own precious story of founding, struggles, growth, endurance, and some form of transformation and reconfiguration.   Each has been led through the years by single-minded women and men, originally by members of apostolic religious communities and later by dedicated laity, whose lives were grounded in faith and consumed by love.  Thank God, this remains our story today.

On the Feast of All Saints, I had the opportunity to attend the all-school liturgy at Holy Apostles School in New Berlin where students sang the Litany of the Saints.  As the names of traditional, much-revered saints were chanted, I thought about the many teachers, pastors, principals, and other educational leaders who built and solidified Catholic education in our Archdiocese for well over a century and on whose shoulders each of us is privileged to stand today.

May all those holy men and women pray for us.

Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

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