Today I look forward to celebrating Mass for the Lexington Catholic High School Class of 2016 during their commencement celebration. I am proud of the accomplishments of this year’s graduating class and of the institution they represent.
Lexington Catholic builds on the legacy of Saint Catherine’s Academy (founded in 1823) and Lexington Latin High School (founded in 1924) which combined in 1951. This represents 193 years of quality Catholic secondary education in Lexington.
This year’s graduates will go to 61 different colleges and receive more than $18 million in scholarships; some will be the first in their families to go to college. The 202 members of this class come from a variety of countries, cultures, economic backgrounds and even religious traditions. They have excelled in theater, music, athletics and academics and have overcome a variety of challenges.
We trust that these representatives of our school will have a positive influence in the world because of the gospel values which underlie their educational experience.
Recent allegations about the school, highlighted in the May 15 op-ed by Adrian Wallace of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP, do not represent the whole story of the incidents reported.
More importantly, they do not portray the complete picture of Lexington Catholic High School and its contributions to the community.
Racially derogatory comments, violent language, threats and sexual exploitation among high-school students are inexcusable and completely inconsistent with the purpose of the school or its Catholic identity. Lexington Catholic exists to further the teaching mission of Jesus Christ and Christian values are the foundation of our educational ministry.
The church and all its institutions must continually work at conforming to the example of Jesus, and to transform attitudes and actions that are inconsistent with its own teachings. Jesus preached a message of conversion; for most of us this is a lifelong journey. There are no short cuts or quick fixes when we talk about the transformation of hearts.
Lexington Catholic has engaged the services of education consultant Roger Cleveland and his associates with WYRevolution to assess the culture at the school and to propose a strategy for uprooting any bias or insensitivity to the racial and cultural diversity in the school and in society.
The Catholic Church denounces any form of racism, overt or subtle, as inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as a sin against the dignity of the human person. It is a core teaching of our faith that each human being is made in the image and likeness of God. This is a teaching that must be expressed in all that we say and do, it requires self-scrutiny and reflection as well as the ability to hear the voices of the underrepresented and the excluded.
As bishop, I am personally committed to seeing Lexington Catholic draw on the best of its tradition and continue to be a leading educational institution in this community. The gospel values which are the very basis for the existence of Lexington Catholic must be lived authentically and be evident in every member of our community. I have been pleased to see so many examples of leadership and service among the students and graduates, making a difference in the local community and in places as far away as Haiti.
We will address shortcomings and failures in ways that correspond, as best as we are able, to Jesus’ perfect example of mercy and justice.
The Rev. John Stowe is the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington.