Editor's Note: Today, I'm very pleased to welcome guest contributor TJ Burdick, the founder and lead moderator of FaithandZeal.net and author of School Spirit: A Profound Journey through the Gospels for Teachers. Once you've enjoyed TJ's contribution, please be sure to check out his blog and share School Spirit with your favorite teacher or enjoy these amazing daily gospel reflections with your own family. LMH 

One of the problems that we as Catholic citizens face today is how we should respond to an increasing rise in immigrant population. As children of immigrants, the answer should be easy, but sadly it is not. We are several different groups divided by language, social norms, and beliefs and we are posed with the proposition to become one.  What makes matters worse is that our traditionally Catholic Hispanic brothers and sisters are leaving the Church in troughs.

As Christian teachers, what should our response be to this issue?

On the public school side of our Education system, schools with newcomer programs are springing up more often than before. After school English as a Second Language programs and other organizations are reaching out to help the next generation, but funds in most urban areas where the need is most prevalent are low. For that reason, an immigrant child’s future is questionable in the hands of the inner-city schools that are trying so desperately to provide for them.

On the parochial side, however, there is hope. The University of Notre Dame has published a report on this exact situation. It highlights the need for a culturally accepting Catholic education for the present-day immigrant children. Statistics from the study state that immigrant children are several times more likely to graduate from high school (and remain a part of the Catholic faith) if they go to Catholic schools. Similar numbers state that they are more likely to go to college than their Public school peers.

This study is merely the springboard for greater things to come. Sure, funding and language barriers will be an issue, but the report highlights methodology and framework for Catholic schools to overcome economic and academic obstacles. To do so, the Notre Dame task force focuses on flourishing schools systems that have experienced success in immigrant education such as the NativityMiguel Network (Lasallian and Jesuit), and the Cristo Rey Schools (Jesuit). With their efforts and all Christians nationwide, the future looks just as bright for our immigrant children as it was for our forefathers.

On top of Notre Dame’s work in this area, parents who are able have an invaluable resource in educating their students in a bilingual setting.  Currently, there are very few Catholic schools that have bought into the “immersion” philosophy, but those who have are seeing great results in their bilingual pupils.  The academic brain functionality of a bilingual alone is reason to celebrate, but imagine the spiritual ramifications; instead of evangelizing in the community, students with two languages could potentially communicate the message of salvation to an entire Hemisphere.

So what is our response? As Christian teachers, our response to the need of our immigrant brothers and sisters is simple: we must reflect the God-given light that our hardworking forefathers shined upon us and direct it towards the immigrants of today and towards our monolingual sons and daughters. With the right amount of light, they will build our Nation, our Catholic Schools, and the Church into the unity that both God and our forefathers have always desired. The Notre Dame report and the immersion model give us the mirror we need to do just that.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

For more inspiration from TJ Burdick visit him at FaithandZeal.net and check out his great book School Spirit: A Profound Journey through the Gospels for Teachers.

Copyright 2012 TJ Burdick