I have enjoyed my work here in Boston and feel blessed. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve our Church.
Recently, as I left my dad after a visit, he asked me when I was coming home again. He has never asked that question before, and it left me a bit surprised.
My dad is now 96, and his life is a reminder that there is a time for every season, as stated in Ecclesiastes. He has experienced the births of nine children and the death of one child. He has sown and reaped grain for 85 seasons. He has also laughed with joy and wept over many things during his 96 years. And now, it is a season of rest for him -- and for his daughter, it is time to go home and help to care for him.
I have loved being the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. I have seen our schools embrace change and work hard to improve. I have been privileged to worship with our students and their teachers, to listen to parents express their worries and hopes for their children, and to visit many classrooms, where the teaching and learning processes are strong.
During the last five years, we have worked hard to embrace our Catholic identity. We realize there is a reason that the word "Catholic" comes before the word "school" in our names. Our principals and teachers work intentionally each day to provide our students with multiple encounters with Jesus. Our new Faith Formation standards are second to none, and our schools use them to make sure that our students are learning our faith -- a faith that will lead them to Jesus. The work in this area is never finished, but our evangelization efforts in our schools are continuous, real and leading students and families to Christ.
Technology in the archdiocese looks different than it did five years ago. Chromebooks and Google Docs are now seen in many, many schools. All our elementary schools do online assessments to measure student progress, while some of our schools now have e-learning days when the snow comes. Our archdiocese has a student information system that will provide our parents with access to the students' work and progress 24/7. It will also allow us to reach all parents by text or email in case of an emergency.
New academic standards have been written for mathematics and language arts for grades K-8. These standards are challenging and teach students to seek truth and beauty in all things. They are 21st century standards and ask students to communicate in a variety of ways, to collaborate with others, to create and to think critically.
When I first arrived in Boston, everyone said, "We don't have a bench." They were referring to the fact that, when principals left our schools for a multitude of reasons, we did not have enough people who had the necessary skills, ready to replace them. Through the generosity of the Catholic Schools Foundation, we have a leadership program to prepare new leaders and we have many more people who are ready to lead. Our bench still isn't as strong as we would like, but the people who are on it are exemplary, and for that I'm grateful.
The most important thing is that our students are learning about Jesus. Our teachers understand that, as Pope Paul VI said, "education is an intimate conversation between souls" and they work to develop relationships with our students and their families. These relationships make Catholic education a true partnership between home and school.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed the closure of schools and the pain it causes our students and their families. I have seen the anguish it causes pastors when they make that most difficult of decisions, and I pray for all who have been involved every day.
Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boson have many, many wonderful opportunities ahead of them. I am confident that our new superintendent, Tom Carroll, will do well. I pray for his success.
Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes ends with verse 22. It says, "So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?" I have enjoyed my work here in Boston and feel blessed. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve our Church. I have made mistakes, but I have always done my best and always with a strong faith in God and our Church. I know that the next season for Catholic education in Boston will be the best!
It is time to go see my dad.
- Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.