Today marks the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools Celebrate Service.” The story of Catholic schools in America begins in 1640, when a layman named Roger Crouch founded the first in Maryland. Over the next 150 years growth was slow, because of the anti-Catholic legislation in many colonies. New York City’s first Catholic School was founded in 1800, at St. Peter’s on Barclay Street. In 1823 Brooklyn got its first Catholic school, St. James. School building picked up dramatically in the 1840′s, due to a growing Catholic immigration and an increase in religious teaching communities. For over a century, Catholic schools were concentrated in the nation’s major urban centers. Today the Catholic school population has undegone some major demographic shifts, but this doesn’t mean that Catholic schools have suddenly become irrelevant. Today in many parts of the country, schools are being built where they never existed before. In the areas where they existed for many years, they continue to make a difference, and that difference is service. That’s why we take this week to celebrate the contributions Catholic schools continue to make in Church and nation.