Three Occasions, Three Values.
During the month of January, the Catholic Church and U.S. society mark three important occasions: National Migration Week, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and National Catholic Schools Week. Firstly, National Migration Week falls in the second week of January. This event, which started almost fifty years ago, is promoted by the U.S. bishops as an occasion for the faithful to “reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants, refugees, children, and victims and survivors of human trafficking” (USCCB) and to stand with them, to welcome, protect and integrate them into our midst.
Secondly, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day falls on the third Monday of January. Regarded as a federal holiday here in the U.S., this is a day on which we celebrate the legacy of the eponymous civil rights leader and Nobel Laureate, who sought equality and through peaceful protest advocated the human rights of African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of social injustice. In his famous speech at the March on Washington in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said these powerful words:
“I have a dream that one day . . . the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . . that little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. . . (that) little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.”
Thirdly, National Catholic Schools Week falls in the fourth week of January. This event originated 44 years ago and is celebrated annually to highlight the contributions of Catholic education in the fabric of the Church and society in the United States. It focuses on the value of Catholic education and the crucial role it plays in the formation of the youth, the building–up of the Church and the shaping of society in the future.
As I reflect on these occasions, I am reminded of three of the values in our Mission and Values statement: Safe Community, Diversity, and Knowledge. We define safe community as “providing physical and emotional freedom that assists learning, growing and exploring”; diversity as “building fraternity and community by respecting and celebrating uniqueness”; and knowledge as “pursuing academic, moral and spiritual depth.” These values are consistent with the Gospel message and the teachings of the Church. They are also correspondent with this month’s celebrations.
Here at St. Lawrence, we strive to live by those values. We learn them. We model them. We hold each other up to those standards. As we progress through the remainder of this academic year, I invite us to reflect further on the significance of those three occasions. I also invite us to cultivate more deeply the values of safe community, diversity and knowledge, applying them assiduously in our daily lives. In so doing, not only will the goals and dreams of these celebrations be accomplished, we will also contribute to the creation of a more welcoming and caring society, and, therefore, a more just and peaceful world.