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aneumannThis morning as I try to get my mind back into a routine after two days away, I am thinking of the youth of our country – and others – whose  vacation came to an end yesterday. Their return to school must’ve been a shock, not only for those who love to sleep late and did for 11 days, but for all who walk to school or wait on a corner for a school bus. After an unusually balmy “green Christmas” here in the Northeast, the temperature was (and is today) hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit. I have great compassion for school children on days like this, remembering well those days of shivering and hoping that the heat in the bus was functioning!

Aside from the weather, the impetus for my thoughts today derives from the fact that today is the feast of St. John Neumann, one of a growing number of canonized individuals claimed as a saint of the United States of America. Although born in what is now the Czech Republic, John Neumann came to the United States in 1836 at the age of 25 doing missionary work first in New York and then in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. It was as bishop of Philadelphia, however, that he organized the Catholic schools which had up until that point been run independently by parishes into a diocesan system. He drew many teaching communities of religious Sisters as well as the Christian Brothers (a teaching community of men) to this well-organized system and engaged his own community, the Redemptorists (Congregation of the Holy Redeemer), in this work as well. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is still widely noted for its school system with 148 schools across 5 counties.

Today, then, I send blessings to teachers on all levels of education, whose work is essential to the future of humanity, that they may open not only the minds of their students but also their hearts so that they become good and loving citizens of the world. In addition, I bless the children, that their schools may be safe and inspired places, giving them what they need – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually – to grow and prosper, thus changing the world for the better. May it be so.