Saturday, February 4, 2017



Father Ronald Knott, Event Speaker, Richard Lechleiter, President of Catholic Education Foundation, Julie Baum, Senior Director of CEF, Father Troy Overton, Pastor of St. Edward Church.

“Catholic Education: Forming People Who Are Good and Good at It.”

Rev. Ronald Knott
February 4, 2017

“I am the good shepherd.”
John 10

I was born and raised in St. Theresa Parish, down in Meade County. I attended St. Theresa Academy for the first and second grade until it closed and became St. Theresa School. One of my earliest childhood memories during those years is the scene of my pastor, Father Felix J. Johnson, walking through the parish cemetery, dressed in coveralls and carrying a bucket of feed in each hand, to feed the sheep that grazed among the tombstones.  He wasn’t trying to be romantic, he was just doing what needed to be done to save money in a country parish that did not have a lot of money to waste. The cemetery needed mowing and mutton was served at the parish picnic every August. Looking back, you would have to admit that he was rather ingenious.

The word “pastor” is the Latin word for a “shepherd.” Father Johnson was not only a “shepherd” in the literal sense, he was our “shepherd” in the spiritual sense.  Just as he fed and protected his flock of sheep, he fed and protected us as his parishioners for many, many years. He could be tough. He put up with no religious nonsense from his flock, but people loved and respected him nonetheless. I always think of him when I read the passages about Jesus, the “good shepherd.”

Not only was he a “morally good shepherd,” he was also a "competent shepherd" - a master carpenter, bricklayer, draftsman and “water-witch.” He was called on by parishioners for help in designing buildings and to find the best places to drill for water wells. As a master carpenter and bricklayer, he was the main carpenter for the rectory, convent, parish hall and school - laying most of the brick himself. As our “pastor,” he was “good” and “good at it.”

I doubt seriously that many of you will see your kids going into the “shepherd” business after graduating from St. Edward School. If that were to come true you are probably hoping your child will get a scholarship to the “grazing school” offered by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture or you might find yourself asking the pastor to call the Vocation Director of the Archdiocese to get your son an application to the seminary.  Since most of the students here will be going into other professions, what bits of wisdom can be gleaned from the Scripture text about the “good shepherd” for you to pass on to these kids? What message could possibly be relevant for those who will be graduating someday with degrees in business, nursing, liberal arts and education?

                                 “I am the good shepherd.”

There are two words in Greek for “good,” “agathos” and kalos.”  “Agathos” means “good,” as in a “morally good” person.  That is not the Greek word used here. It is the other word for “good,” “kalos” as in “good at” something. Jesus was not just a “good person, he “good at shepherding.” In short, he was “good” and “good at it.”

It occurred to me that these two Greek words for “good,” “agathos” and “kalos” are the two qualities that we all need. I believe they are also the two qualities that a good Catholic education has to offer.  No matter what profession we follow or vocation we answer, like the Good Shepherd, we need to be “good” and “good at it,” not one or the other, but both together. We need to be moral people who are also competent.

We must be “agathos,” good people, authentic human beings, aware of who we are, in control of ourselves, aware of our place in the human family and committed to our own spiritual and personal growth. Those of us who follow Christ must hunger and thirst for the holiness of Jesus, himself, not in some obnoxious, pious, religious-fanatic way, but in a whole human person kind of way.

It is not enough just to be “agathos,” just to be a “good person,” we must also be “good at what we do.”  As a priest, I am hopefully committed to being a good person, but I must also commit to developing my skills at preaching, celebrating the sacraments and leading faith communities. Like the Good Shepherd, I cannot be merely personally “good,” I must also be “good at” what a priest does. 

Those of you who are married must know that you cannot be a “good couple” without both you being individually good people. Even then, you must not just be individually good, you must be good at partnering and good at parenting.

If you become teachers or nurses, you must be more than “good,” you must be “good at” teaching and “good at nursing.” Whatever your profession or vocation, to be really successful, you must dedicate yourselves to “being good” and “being good at what you do.”  Forming that balance in the young is what Catholic education should be all about – not just one or the other, but both at the same time!

My friends, no matter how professionally competent we are, we must also be good people at our core. No matter how good of a person we are at our core, we must also be competent at what we do. This is what a whole person, a holy person, an integrated person, a fully human person is all about. Catholic education tries to do that! It tries to turn out good people who are competent at what they do!

A truly “Catholic” school is where talented and diverse young people develop the intellectual, moral and professional competencies to lead, to serve and to create a life worth living – with the ability to make a decent living in the process. Yes, we are called to model our lives on the Good Shepherd who was both  “agathos” and “kalos,” “good” and “good at it!”   


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