December 14, 2011 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 32† |† BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
Dear Children of the Diocese of Rockville Centre,
In this happy season of Advent, I have been thinking especially of you. I think of you in your families and in your schools, in your neighborhoods and in your parishes. Your parents love you. So do I. We all want you to have a happy childhood and to grow great in the eyes of God, our loving Father.
Soon it will be Christmas. Every Christmas is exciting but I think for children, there is no other day that is like Christmas. I remember as a little boy how excited we would get, first wondering what Santa Claus would bring us.† Then as we grew older watching who might be out buying presents. One year when I was about six or seven, I wanted a wheelbarrow. My godfather made me one and I took it, put all my other presents in it and hid my presents so that my older brothers could not have them. My mother used that to teach me that we must always share with others. I tell you this little story about me to make that same point: whatever we have should never be just for ourselves. Just as Jesus was generous by coming among us to be born as one of us, so we should be generous to one another. That is how we imitate Him and become more like Him.
We all like presents. And we can get pretty excited just opening them up. But let me tell you something about presents. They are wonderful and they add to our lives and give us so many new ways to enjoy special times with our families and our friends. When we give someone a present, it means we are presenting someone we care for with a gift that is not just another toy or another piece of sports equipment. It is a gift. And gifts come from people with good hearts. The gift really represents the person who gives it to us. And giving goes both ways. We may have a gift to give them or we may not. But we can always show our gratitude for gifts by thanking the giver. And our thanks are even more important than any gift we might be able to give because thanks have to come from a good heart. Again we learn from Jesus. He was Godís gift to all of us. He was born in a stable because His mother, Mary, and His foster father, Joseph, had no other place to stay in Bethlehem. Yet that stable became the first home for Jesus where His mother brought Him into the world with such love that love filled that stable and spread across the town of Bethlehem and throughout the whole world.
That is the same kind of love your parents have for you. That is the same kind of love we should show to them, to our brothers and sisters, to our neighbors and, really, to everyone we know, in our neighborhood, in our parish, in our school.
Speaking of school, I want to tell you that I pray for you to do well in school. Next to your parents and your parish, your school is the most important place for you while you are growing up. Sometimes it can be hard. Sometimes it can be easy. Sometimes you love school and sometimes you wish you didnít have to go to school. But school is very important for us all. It is the place your parents send you so that you can be with young people your age and learn what you need for the rest of your life.
In our Church on Long Island most of you go to the public schools in your neighborhoods. But many of you go to one of the Catholic schools that are in your parish or a parish near you. These schools are dear to me because the pupils, you, are dear to me. I am grateful to God and to the principals and teachers, the priests and the staffs that make our Catholic schools so wonderful. They offer you a very good education that is based on our faith. Catholic schools are a great blessing and I thank all your parents and all the people in your parish who support Catholic schools and make them such good places for you.
Recently I had to do something that was very difficult and left me very sad. I knew we could not keep all our Catholic schools open. I asked a group of very dedicated people to study our situation and recommend to me what schools would stay open and which ones would have to close. Forty-three schools remained opened. Six, I very reluctantly and sadly, agreed would have to close in June of 2012. The children in those schools will have to change to another school next September. That is hard. It hurts to lose a place where you feel at home, the place where you have good teachers and lots of friends. If I could have kept all the schools open I would have done so gladly. If I could have found the means to open new schools I would do it. But I canít!
As a boy I had to change schools after the third grade. Then I had to change again after sixth grade. I loved each of my schools. My best friend who lived across the street and I had to make these changes and they were hard. I can still remember the names of my teachers in all those grades. I still drive by my first school that has been closed so long but remains a place I love and cherish.
To all you children whose school is closing this coming June, I can only say I am sorry. But I also can tell you that I wanted to make all these changes at once so that I can do my best to see that no other school closes so long as I am your bishop. The closings are painful to all but especially you children and your parents. I understand your feelings and share them with you.
Once again the best thing we can do is turn to Jesus. Not long after He was born in that stable in Bethlehem, His foster father Joseph had to take Him and His mother to another country to keep Him safe. Then when they could go home, they went to another village, Nazareth, where He grew up. It wasnít easy but he had the love of His parents and the love of God, our Father. So we are told that He ďgrew up in age and grace and wisdom.Ē
This Christmas I pray that each one of you and all of you, whatever happens, will know Godís love in your families and in your homes. I pray that you will be gifts to your parents just as Jesus was a gift to Mary His mother. I pray you will know great happiness and joy. I pray that in your homes, in your parish Church, in your schools and neighborhoods, with family and friends, you might feel the love of the Christ child in your lives and be, just like Jesus, a source of life and joy to us all.