Home is where you come to know self. It is a place of unconditional love and acceptance and a place to be challenged toward personal growth. It is where one learns to interact with others, and to form the best practices of kindness, generosity, compassion and forgiveness. It is where one learns that mercy is a reality as failure can always find forgiveness. A Catholic home is all of this and more, it is a place where faith is nurtured and taught, practiced and cherished.

If this sounds idealistic, well, then it is a goal to be sought. And just as the Catholic family must work at becoming a home, a place where children come to find themselves in the world, so, too, is the Catholic school an extension of all that takes place within the home. It is a place that reinforces the values that should be found within the family; it is a place that manifests unconditional love and acceptance, yet is a place that challenges all to become what God has called them to be, to follow the model of Jesus Christ.

It is important that parents understand the vision of what a Catholic school truly is and should be. That it is an extension of the home. But what if that home is not a place of Gospel values? What if it is not a place that models itself on the life of faith in Jesus Christ? What if it does not cherish the Gospel virtues of faith, hope and love? What if forgiveness and mercy are not evident there? What if Catholicism is simply a term thought irrelevant, having little significance and meaning? What if parents do not see themselves in a holy partnership with teachers and administrators, or work to support one another in this precious union that makes this extension a reality? The answers to these questions are obvious: Catholic education will not succeed. It will become a secular institution under the guise of a religious institution. It is the faith of the family that makes a Catholic school relevant.

It is true, a Catholic faculty and staff must understand this as well. They must be supportive of the faith of the family no matter what level of education they find themselves or what discipline they have undertaken to teach. They must realize that they are an extension of the Catholic family and the Catholic home, of Catholic values and virtues.

The Domestic Church has always been at the very heart of the Universal Church. Our Catholic schools must continue the great practice of supporting the family, the home, as well as reaching toward the paradigm of a universality that is the mystical body of Christ, our final and eternal home.

Franciscan Father Gabriel J. Zeis is diocesan vicar for Catholic education.