CELEBRATING CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK
Dear Friends in Christ,
This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, which is an opportunity to acknowledge, appreciate, and support the remarkable ministry of our Catholic schools that provide opportunities for our children to grow and succeed during their formative years. Like no other ministry of the Church, Catholic schools provide for its students a daily encounter with Christ. Catholic schools have been producing successful graduates for more than 200 years – graduates who carry the practice of their faith out into the world, distinguishing themselves through higher academic achievement, community engagement and generosity. Like generations of Catholic school graduates before them, they become prepared for the tests of life in our schools. Catholic schools not only transform those who are its students but, by their witness, the culture itself is changed to conform to the gospel message. I invite all families to think about the benefits of a Catholic school education for your children. Catholic schools in the diocese serve more than 6,000 students in six counties and we are working to grow. As part of a new three-year effort to welcome more students into our Catholic schools, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which currently provides $240,000 per year in tuition assistance, has been increased to $1 million in order to make our Catholic schools affordable to families. More than a top-notch education, Catholic schools provide the leadership, integrity, and moral compass that young people need in today’s society. Prayerfully consider the Catholic school nearest you by visiting our diocesan schools website at: CatholicSchools4U.org or call our diocesan Office of Catholic Schools at (616) 246-0590. I am grateful to all of you that continue to support our Catholic schools in prayer as well as through your time, talent, and treasure!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak Bishop of Grand Rapids
A Message from Our New Headmaster, Mr. Sean Maltbie
Let me first thank Father Sirico and the Parishioners of Sacred Heart, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for the warm welcome I have already received. I am eternally grateful to God and my family for allowing me to be here today and because God and my family are responsible for each and every item Father shared in the short bio he presented when my appointment was announced. I am truly blessed. I ask for the additional blessing of your indulgence for a few moments of your time as I would like to share with you all a little bit about the our academy and how I got here, but before I start it is fitting to take a moment to publicly thank Father Sirico, Father Peter, Tim Walsh, Zach Good, Barb Menardie, David Michael-Phelps, and Erik Kovalak and many others that I have yet to meet for the work they have done to create a vision for something very special. And not just for the vision, but for the blood, sweat and tears poured into turning that vision into a reality. If these men and women are not in your prayers already, they should be, not just as thanks for the blessing that they are, but also as a petition for their continued fortitude as we move into the next phase for Sacred Heart.
I am humbled by the faith Father Sirico and the others have placed in me to be the leader of this wonderful gift of God, this gift we all know now as Sacred Heart Academy. If you do not yet appreciate what has happened with the Academy this past transitional year, I encourage you to spend some time looking through this website, especially the Vision page. The time you spend here on the site will be time well spent. In a world that repeatedly gives us reasons to lament, the Academy is a light, one that will only grow brighter in the days, months, and years ahead. This website is a sort of lampstand for the light.
If you heard Fr. Sirico’s introduction of me firsthand or have since seen it, you might have already asked yourself, how does a federal prosecutor come to be the Headmaster of our school? All I can say is I discovered the opportunity by complete happenstance and was profoundly moved the first minute I scanned the qualifications Father Sirico was seeking in a Headmaster. I would call it a complete accident, but we all know there are no accidents. Almost five months later, I stand before you as your new Headmaster and I will continue to pray every day that the Lord will help me to be worthy of that role.
The complete story is much longer and I won’t try your patience with it in this particular venue, but let’s just say that about 18 months ago, I had what many faithful call a “second conversion.” This deepening of my faith was a profound one, and so I found it particularly fitting when as I was preparing my remarks to follow Fr. Sirico’s announcement of my appointment, the first reading on that particular day was the account of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Saul was a Pharisee. He thought he was close to God, he thought he was doing God’s will, but Luke’s account is that Saul was “ravaging” Christ’s Church and Christ himself asks Saul, “why do you persecute me?”
There is a painting, completed in 1601, by Caravaggio, that hangs in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, and it depicts Saul knocked from his horse, on the road to Damascus. This beautiful painting presents the stark wake-up call to Saul, that he was not as close to God as he thought. When I began the radical deepening of my faith, I felt as though I had been similarly struck, and the rest is, as they say, history. This painting presents truth, goodness, and beauty. And that is what Sacred Heart Academy is all about, the true, the good, and the beautiful.
My second conversion, much like Paul’s, presented the reality of my place in relation to God and neighbor in such a way that I realized that there are certain truths that make us all responsible for what happens in our homes, in our parishes, in our communities, in our country, and in our world. And I want to quickly share with you some of these truths:
Truth #1 – We all want the best for our children. How many times have you heard that phrase, or even said it, and not really appreciated what it means? What is the “best” we can hope for? Almost every part of society will tell you that the “best” for our children is to prepare them for getting into a “good” college or getting a “good” job. But as Christians, we know there is more to life than that, we know that the BEST we can want for our children is Heaven. There is nothing greater.
Truth #2 – Parents have the first responsibility to educate their children. This extends to all aspects of a child’s life, most especially to their moral education and spiritual formation.
Truth #3 – We are all called to live lives of holiness. We are created to share in God’s blessed life, Heaven. The choices we make during our time in this world determine whether we inherit that eternal gift.
Truth #4 – The only way to grow in holiness is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Like any relationship, we have to work at it. We have to spend time with him, listening to him, following him. How close is our relationship with Jesus Christ? How close is your child’s relationship with Jesus Christ? Are we at the foot of the Master or do we listen to or follow all the other influences in our world? Much like Saul, do we believe we have a good relationship with God, when in fact we have ignored his person as presented to us in creation, in the scriptures, and in the Eucharist?
I find it no small coincidence that these truths are what have driven the renewal of the spiritual and intellectual life of Sacred Heart Academy. As for the spiritual life of the Academy, we have made great strides to increase each child’s relationship with Jesus. We are doing that by spending time with Him when we begin every day with Mass. We also have weekly Adoration on Tuesdays and participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly. This time spent with Jesus is of the highest priority. If we do not spend time with Him, how could we expect to have a relationship with him? The participation in the Sacraments is reinforced by prayer throughout the day as we learn about TRUTH in the curriculum.
This approach is in deliberate, stark contrast to modern secular education, which can teach everything but the TRUTH and which continues to move further and further from the TRUTH. A fact which is evident in such simple examples as public school textbooks that suggest Christianity is a myth and include the secular myth that history is divided into a “Common Era” and a “Before Common Era,” instead of the time “Before Christ” or in those years after the Incarnation, like this one which we mark as being the 2014th Year of our Lord. We could go on and on about the vices of the alternatives, but we think it more important to talk about the virtues of a Classical Catholic Curriculum that begins in earnest at Sacred Heart Academy next year. Suffice to say that Jesus did not say he was “a truth,” He said he was “THE TRUTH.”
The Classical approach is an orientation toward the TRUTH. The TRUTH that God created man and that God became man. This latter TRUTH, the Incarnation, happened at a particular time, in a particular place, and in a particular culture. The Incarnation is the hinge of history at the intersection of Greco-Roman civilization and the Jewish faith. This reality and all the best that has been written and said about it is the source of the material we will use at the Academy to transmit the TRUTH to our children.
This is a significant undertaking, but it is well underway. Please look for forthcoming information about the faculty that we have diligently assembled for our journey. Soon we will also provide information about our new curriculum. When you see the curriculum, trust me, you’ll be jealous of our students and the beautiful things they are learning. And to top it off, this curriculum will be implemented without any government funding or the strings that come with it!
Sacred Heart Academy is a parish apostolate dedicated to assisting families, forming Catholics, and cultivating culture. As your Headmaster, I believe almost all of the critical pieces are in place to enable the Academy to accomplish this mission. The faculty and staff are already working in earnest to prepare for next year, but we could use your help. You can all be a part of this apostolate in a real and personal way.
First of all, we need your prayers. If Sacred Heart Academy is not a part of your daily prayer, we ask that you please consider adding our families, our staff, and myself to your intercessions.
Second, we need you to spread the word. We are working on marketing initiatives, but if you know a family that has children who are not enrolled at Sacred Heart. You should ask them why they haven’t. You should tell them if they want the best education for their children, now is the time decide! SPREAD THE WORD. You can direct them to me, to any of our staff or to this website. Encourage them and follow up. You can also utilize social media (see the top of this page) to share our information with your friends and family. This type of activity has already borne fruit.
Third, God gave each of us gifts. There are already a great number of people who have stepped forward to offer their gifts in specific areas of need. But we can use all the help we can get. We are all called to share our different gifts in Mission to spread the TRUTH. We will need your gifts in all forms: time, talent, and treasure. You can be part of something great. For example, you could put a great book that transmits TRUTH into the hands of a Young Catholic. That is just as important an act of witness as any other. Or you might be able to help with a specific event. Or you might have specific training in an area which we might be able to use.
Please know this: As a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus, or a Catholic in Grand Rapids, or simply as someone concerned about the state of Christian culture, you are a part of this, whether you have children attending Sacred Heart Academy or not.
If you are interested in helping, please contact Zach Good or myself. No contribution of time, talent, or treasure it too small.
Sacred Heart Academy is a Parish Apostolate and it will only succeed with the support of the community. I am grateful for the time you have taken informing yourself about our school’s new direction. I look forward to serving you, your children, and your neighbors, at Sacred Heart Academy.
God Bless you all!