Finding our 'True North'
Our world changes day by day, moment by moment. It seems every time we turn around there is an emerging technology or app or device that can assist us with even the most basic life tasks, from grocery shopping to banking to learning. It is an exciting time to be alive, a time that challenges us to embrace change and view the world through a lens of curiosity and hope rather than fear and resistance.
And yet, despite our continual technological advances, some things have withstood the test of time. The compass, for example. The earliest known compass dates back 2,000 years to China, when a lodestone was used for navigation. Although technology has been dramatically refined over the centuries, the compass as a guiding tool remains unquestioned. In fact, if you open your smartphone right now, despite the advent of countless innovations, you’re still able to call up a compass – simple, tried, and true.
As we journey into the new school year, we look toward the future with hope and courage, and we encourage our students to do the same. Although the path forward may not always be easy or without obstacle, we provide our students with a figurative compass to guide their way, as well as a deep understanding of the “True North” compass point that is our calling and mission: justice, compassion, love, understanding. We walk forward together, guided by our shared faith and history.
Each of our Catholic schools gives our students an unshakeable foundation in our history and the “classics,” the things that have shaped our world and our Church, for better or for worse. From there, we encourage our students to look to the future with excitement, to explore new ideas and emerging technologies, and not to be afraid of change. In short, we teach them to be thinkers and leaders who will one day take our world in directions that just might save it from the daily threats to its environment and its people. As educators, we must recognize our collective responsibility to put their future first, despite our tendency to reminisce about our history.
Most of us can probably point to a teacher, relative, friend, or mentor who has provided us with compass points and taught us how to navigate from Point A to Point B, always keeping our eyes fixed on that True North that leads us where we need to be, despite the many detours, obstacles, and storms we encounter along the way. For our students, those compass points include the True North of their faith rooted in the Gospel, as well as the other key points of academics, physical and mental strength and health, social skills and relationships, and all the interests and hobbies that round out their lives to make them so adaptable and capable. It’s why I have no doubt they will graduate from our schools to help build a better world and brighter future for all of us.
That same True North guides the overarching strategic planning of Catholic schools across the fourteen counties of our Diocese. In the coming months, the Albany Diocesan School Board will unveil its Strategic Compass, a tool to help our schools navigate the changing landscape of Catholic education in our region. Rooted in the history of our world, our Church, our country, and our individual parishes and communities, we can prepare the next generation of young people to move out into the world with a firm grasp on the past and a wild hope for the future.
Despite the many challenges that confront our world today — and to be sure, there are many — our students, faculty, and staff embrace those challenges with the Gospel message in mind: Be not afraid. We trust the path because we trust in God, who remains our singular guiding North Star. We look forward with hope because ours is a faith of eternal hope. We walk alongside our students, moving ever forward toward a day when love and justice are not the exception but the rule, where their future comes first, not our past.
Dr. Giovanni Virgiglio, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools