In my podcast conversation with Pamela Lyons, the first-year superintendent for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, we delve into the issue of Catholic identity. Lyons has targeted the Eucharist as the unifying force for Catholic identity. She has challenged schools to celebrate Mass more frequently and to make it more essential to school life.
But Lyons also identifies Catholic identity as a process. Not all schools are there yet, we need to acknowledge. But we can challenge them to take steps to improve. I used a football metaphor to illustrate. If you take Alabama as the pinnacle of football these days (and five national championships in the last nine years certainly supports that argument), then one might be tempted to say that a strong football identity means you play and look like Alabama’s team.
But the reality is our school’s football teams don’t often resemble Alabama’s. In fact, if you wander out to a practice field and view your JV football team, you might become discouraged if Alabama football was your paradigm. What to do? Should you shut down your team? Attack your coaches for not putting together a team that resembles Alabama’s?
Of course not. Our athletes are asked to push their limits and reach their potential. Our high school teams cannot often that standard of excellence. But it’s still football as our athletes struggle and aspire. We should view Catholic identity the same way. As our schools struggle to become more authentically Catholic, they are going to make mistakes. We are called to journey with our students, parents, and staff members as we try to become more Catholic, not becoming discouraged by the messiness that is part of the educational process.
Listen to one superintendent articulate her vision for inspiring Catholic identity recognizing that this is a process of growth, not an overnight expectation.