National Catholic Schools Week 2015 was observed in dioceses around the country Jan. 25—31. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focused on the important academic, faith-building and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.

“Catholic schools are a vital aspect of the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so an important aspect of our own teaching mission,” said Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Education. “Pope Francis has reminded us that the New Evangelization is not precisely about what we do and what programs we adopt; rather, it is about what God is doing, the graces we are being blessed with, and the Spirit that is always being poured out over our ministry.”

About 2.1 million students are currently educated in nearly 6,600 Catholic schools in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities around the country. Students receive an education that prepares them for the challenges of higher education and a competitive work environment. An estimated 99 percent of students graduate from high school and 85 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college.

Archbishop Lucas also stressed the importance of reaching out to underserved populations.

“In these days of economic turmoil for so many families, a good education remains the single best way out of poverty for young people,” Archbishop Lucas said. “At the same time, we cannot forget, through the education and faith formation of children and youth, our Catholic schools are part of a solution to support families and to build productive lives for future generations.”

The observance of Catholic Schools Week began in 1974. Schools and parishes around the country held activities such as Masses, open houses and potluck gatherings to celebrate the communities they represented.

Last year’s activities included nearly a thousand students who joined bishops, parents and teachers from Arizona dioceses in a rally at the state Capitol in Phoenix. Pastors from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, rang their church bells to mark National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools. And in Idaho, students from a school in Lewiston participated in a living rosary to pray for the nation.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has more than 250 schools ranging from preschool to college. The schools seek to provide an encouraging environment and rigorous educational values to help students achieve throughout their education.

Catholic schools in the archdiocese adhere to all national and statewide instructional expectations, while maintaining the highest standards of education and providing an experience that is second to none. Teachers aim to instill a strong work ethic and inspire students to become lifelong learners.

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