Every new school year comes with a sense of hopeful anticipation, no matter how old the student, or where they pursue their education. 

But for the tens of thousands of children and teens who will attend Catholic schools and parish religious education programs in the Diocese of Trenton, the 2022-23 school year holds great promise to be an extraordinary year.

Two important initiatives that aim to inspire a greater sense of holiness and understanding of the faith will distinguish this school year from many others.  The first, the National Eucharistic Revival, which launched in the Diocese in June, is a response on the part of the U.S. bishops to the finding that belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was lacking among Catholics. A special emphasis on the Eucharist in all aspects of parish life, and especially in religious education, is a hallmark of this effort underway across the country this year.

Added to that is the compelling example provided to young people in the Diocese of the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis, the faith-filled Italian teen who died of leukemia and was later beatified by the Church. Last April, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., formally received a relic of Blessed Carlo Acutis during a Mass in St. Dominic Church, Brick. The Bishop commemorated the Oct. 10, 2020 beatification of Blessed Carlo and placed all Catholic schools and young people in the Diocese of Trenton under his special patronage.

“. . . the life and holiness of Blessed Carlo Acutis inspire young people of similar age to recognize that holiness is as possible for them as it was for (him),” Bishop OConnell said. “He was anormal kidin every way, but he developed a deep and profound spirituality centered upon the Holy Eucharist from a very early age which lasted throughout his brief life.”

The Bishop encouraged all Catholic schools and parishes to share information about Blessed Carlo in order “to promote and foster devotion to him as he moves closer to canonization, and to pray for his intercession on behalf of our Catholic schools and all young women and men who strive for holiness in their lives.”

Toward that end and in anticipation of Blessed Carlo’s Feast Day on Oct. 12, Bishop O’Connell directed that a prayer card for the beatified teenager be distributed by the Diocese to all students in Catholic schools and parish youth programs, and that a commemorative poster be displayed in each Catholic school and parish.

Blessed Carlo will also be honored in a special way during the annual Catholic Schools Mass, which will take place on his Feast Day. On this occasion and many others throughout the school year, young Catholics of the Diocese will be encouraged to pray for the canonization cause of Blessed Carlo, who is on track to be the Church’s first millennial saint.

„Participation in the annual Catholic Schools Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop O’Connell, is reserved for student representatives selected by their schools. The Mass will be live-streamed from St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, by the Diocese. To view the Mass, tune in to youtube.com/trentondiocese Oct. 12, beginning at 10:15 a.m.