You know, going to school is like taking up residence in a town unto itself. Think about it. For six and one half hours per day, you not only learn here, you live here. As in any town, the inhabitants are usually families. So, let’s imagine then that every classroom is a family, every floor a neighborhood of families, made up of all types of people. As in every town, there is a government, people who are in charge of supervising the area, making sure that the people of the town are safe, healthy, protected from crime, fire and disease. Well, at school, you have a government here, too, led by a person who may be called by different names such as principal, director, headmaster or president. Besides these leaders, there are teachers, guidance counselors and teachers’ aides. In addition, you have the support staff made up of administrative assistants, nurses, cafeteria workers and custodians. All of these adults, from principals to custodians, are here because they care about your education. They care about you!

As Catholics, we are concerned not only about the development of your brain and your body. We are also interested in shaping your character. Regardless of whether you attend a public, private or Catholic school, we,

adults, prepare for “back to school,” not just by buying you new clothes, pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks and backpacks, we also send you off equipped with Gospel values, which Jesus taught his disciples and expects us, Christians, to practice as well.

These values include: kindness, honesty, humility, compassion and forgiveness. These are key when we wish to include others to eat with us or play with us, who may be new in town. These will help when we try to avoid getting into a physical fight when somebody is rude to you or, maybe, teases you. These values are the tools with which you will arm yourselves against other kids with hot tempers, those who are name-callers and especially in dealing with the bullies. Jesus’ Gospel values are important because you will use these to avoid hating anybody because of the color of their skin, their foreign accent, the religion they profess to follow or their way of life. School is not a place where you are called to judge others but a town where everyone is called to work together. This may seem like a tall order but imitate Jesus who always treated others with mutual respect and tolerance. What does this mean? We acknolwedge the human dignity of every individual when we see him or her as

Jesus does: as a child of God. We should also accept people as Jesus did, which is to say, as they are, and not as we would like them to be. If we live out these values, school will be what God wants it to be, a town where everyone feels welcomed, where everyone loves to learn and learns to love. School will be the place where you will do your best and become that special person Jesus calls you to be.

Boys and girls, it’s that time of year again. Let’s make back to school this year special. Let’s look to the next nine months as a challenge which Jesus knows you can handle. It’s obvious that he believes in you, and we do, too. God bless you all.

Father Glenn J. Comandini is advisor to The Catholic Spirit