Written by: Drew Clary
Miracles are enabled by saying "yes." Although the heavy lifting of bringing these phenomenon into the world is clearly on God's side of the ledger, it is a bit arresting to think that for every miracle, there is some element of human agency, even if it is the seemingly simple act of an open-armed "yes".
This statement and stance--and the ease with which they arise in Catholic schools—are what stunned me time and again during Notre Dame's Fighting for our Children's Future National Bus Tour. My experience brought me to the conclusion that saying "yes" is the quintessential characteristic of what makes Catholic schools so effective. When we initially contacted the schools, we were hoping to visit, to see if we could stop by with "the ACE bus" (which doubtless made way more sense to us than it did to anyone else), we received welcoming and positive responses from the schools with which we have partnered in the past. More surprising, however, were the agreeable reactions we received from other schools with which we had not worked previously.
Once we had contacted the schools—and their respective (arch)dioceses—it was time to start planning our events at the schools. We continued to be blessed with the "yes." We asked things like, "Can we have Mass in your school chapel afterwards?" or "Can you reserve a parking space on the road in front of your school for the 36-foot bus?" or "Will there be special or distinctive student groups—choirs, bands, robotics teams, karate classes--who can display their skills?" or "Can one of our priests offer the homily at your school Mass?" or "Can we invite students from neighboring schools as well?" Time and again, the answer was "yes."
This might sound surprising to the casual observer, but it is not really any different from a normal day in a Catholic school. "Can we find a way to offer a cultural dance club to our students?" "Can we change the class schedule so our kids aren't outside for PE when the school across the street dismisses?" "Can I get tuition assistance to send my child to your school?" "Will you pray for my family at Mass this week because my sister was in a car accident last night?" You can predict the typical response to these questions.
Although counter-intuitive for a school system challenged by fiscal hardships, Catholic schools are thriving with the attitude of "yes". Although this spirit may seem all the more unlikely given the largely negative (and equally incorrect) narratives that distort the "conventional wisdom," the simple miracle of Catholic schools' perseverance is somehow trivial compared to the thousands of miracles they make possible every single day in the lives of the students and families they serve. From closing the achievement gap for marginalized children to the numerous baptisms performed and faith-lives reignited, to the gifted and energetic teachers who are willing and eager to do more for their students with less in their classroom budgets and take-home pay, the miracles are commonplace.
My prayer in the wake of this national pilgrimage to visit and thank the people of these schools will be for a commitment to the attitude of "yes" that may in some small way spark the human agency needed to bring the God-made miracle of high-quality education to the millions of precious children who richly deserve a "yes" in their lives.