Is the school the sole mission of a parish?

What we’ve learned about Stewardship
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
“Does this parish exist to run a school? It seems to me, that we are spending too much money and energy on our parish school? What about other activities and ministries? Is the education of our children our only mission?”
These are good questions that came from a middle aged man at a parish town hall meeting. Sometimes we can be so focused on doing something because “we have always done it that way” that we must stop and reassess why.
In the Diocese of Wichita, we have 120,527 individual parishioners. In our 39 grade and high schools, we have close to 11,000 students. If you were to add up the number of students plus their families, one would see that this is a large group in the parish and diocese and hence it would make sense to direct much of our time, talent, and treasure toward this population in the diocese.
However, we would be gravely mistaken to exclude other missions within the parish or diocese. But how do we prioritize the many possibilities?
“I really hate mission statements!” Cody, a long time parishioner told me: “We spend forever creating them, and then they get stuck on the front of the bulletin where no one reads them.”
How true! But “missions” or mission statements help us to focus our time, talents, and treasures. They allow us to gratefully recognize and receive our needs and gifts, and show us where to share our gifts, such as in a Catholic school or a St. Vincent de Paul society. A mission statement allows a parish to intentionally make use of its resources.
Another way of looking at a mission statement is to think about “core values.” A core value is something that is important to you. Most parishes would include the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy as core values.
The corporal works of mercy, based on Matthew 25:31-36, are: feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the imprisoned; care for the sick; bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy, commanded or encouraged in many places of Scripture, are: admonish the sinner; instruct the ignorant; advise the perplexed; comfort the sorrowful; bear wrongs patiently; forgive all injuries; pray for the living and dead.
In the Diocese of Wichita, we have learned while Catholic education of the children is seen as very important, other missions are also generously and sacrificially supported.
Some examples: Eucharistic Adoration (three fourths of our parishes have some sort of regular Eucharistic adoration); compassion ministries to the bereaved, home bound, hospitalized, elderly; The Lord’s Diner and the many parish food pantries; mission shops where clothing is distributed; funeral dinners; Mass intentions for the dead and living.
It must be remembered by parishes who have Catholic schools, in placing much energy and resources in one mission, we must not neglect others.