I have been doing a fair amount of reflecting on the value of a Catholic School education. The occasion of this reflection has been the recent “Founders Award” that I received from Notre Dame de la Baie. I was one of the founding board members of the school that formed from the former Premontre, St. Joseph’s Academy and Abbot Pennings High Schools.
When I was young, Catholic school education was taken for granted. Most parishes had their own grade school, religious sisters taught there, and only a small minority of Catholic children attended public schools. It was assumed that this was the major ministry of a parish, and the parish and its school was the center of community life.
How perspectives have changed over the years! People today have so many “centers” of community life to choose from: team sports, travel and cottages, work relationships, care of parents and grandparents, shopping, and of course, a home where both parents probably hold full-time jobs.
Bishop Ricken suggests that we look at our Catholic grade and high schools from a whole different perspective today. Often they are the point of entry for families to become engaged in the faith. From the healthy contact with the school-faith community, they then become involved in the parishes that support the schools. Looking at our Catholic schools from this perspective, we see them as evangelizing communities— places where people see and experience dedicated faculty and staff who share their faith and knowledge with our children. In the formation process that takes place, families experience the importance of their relationship with a faith community and then reach out to the parishes as their home.
The place where all this begins is often during the preparation that children have for celebration of the Sacraments: First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation. The preparation and celebration of these sacraments is parish-based and always involves the families.
I invite you to consider our Catholic Schools as a wonderful opportunity for your children to grow spiritually, intellectually, and as whole persons. Many children of our parish attend the GRACE School nearest us: Holy Family School: located on the campus of St. Agnes Parish. A large contingent of high school students attend Notre Dame Academy. There is financial aid available to help families afford these school systems and, as you know, school choice provides vouchers for people to attend private schools.
Often it is grandparents who encourage and financially support their grandchildren who wish to attend our Catholic Schools. Our parish also subsidizes the GRACE system as well as Notre Dame Academy. A major part of our budget is dedicated to these schools. We would love to have more families consider sending their children to them.
Points of entry into the faith community are many. Each have value. Don’t minimize the window of opportunity that is provided by our Catholic Schools!