Catholic Schools Week: Why Jack And Jill Need A Catholic School
There are alternatives to Catholic schools but there are no real substitutes.
In this age of aggressive secularization, Catholic schools play a vital role in forming strong Catholic citizens who can help reclaim our society for Christ. They are the lifeblood of the Catholic community and they deserve the support of all Catholics. There are alternatives to Catholic schools but there are no real substitutes.
Catholic School children rejoice over winning an academic achievement award
PHOENIX, AZ (Catholic Online) - During Catholic School Week, it is a good time to consider why Catholic parents should more seriously consider sending their children to Catholic schools.
It is without question that Catholic schools have historically had a singularly important impact in strengthening the Catholic community. Catholic schools were viewed in the 19th century as a primary means of fighting widespread anti-Catholic discrimination. The vital importance of Catholic schools was such that leaders of the Church in this era often espoused the view that Catholic schools were more important than the parishes themselves, an opinion echoed recently by in an article by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, The Catholic Schools We Need, America Magazine, Sept. 13, 2010.
Studies have shown that Catholic school graduates differ from Catholic children not enrolled in parochial schools in four critical areas: 1) fidelity to Sunday Mass and a keener sense of prayer; 2) maintaining pro-life attitudes, especially on the pivotal topic of abortion; 3) willingness to consider a religious vocation, and 4) continued support for the local church and community, both financially and through service projects, for the balance of their adult lives. Mary Gautier, Does Catholic Education Make A Difference? National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 30, 2005.
In spite of the vital role Catholic schools have played in the Catholic community, enrollment in Catholic schools has dropped significantly over the last four decades. A number of Catholic educators have posited that economic factors have caused the cost of Catholic schools to be placed beyond reach of many Catholic parents. Other commentators argue that the replacement of religious sisters and priests with lay teachers who are generally less knowledgeable about Catholic teachings has made the case for Catholic schools less compelling.
While many explanations are offered for this decline, Archbishop Timothy Dolan's diagnosis of the problem and prescription for revival of Catholic schools is enlightening.
In his recent article in America Magazine, Archbishop Dolan doesn't mince words and places the blame on Catholics who have "disowned their school system, excusing themselves as in individuals, parishes or dioceses from any further involvement with a Catholic school simply because their own children are not enrolled there." Archbishop Dolan also notes the impact of the aggressive secularization of American culture that undermines the commitment Catholics used to make to Catholic schools. Dolan goes on to say that "The truth is that the entire parish, the whole diocese and the universal church benefit from Catholic schools in ways that keep communities strong. So all Catholics have a duty to support them."
In Arizona, where I live, many Catholic schools have been hurt by the increasing popularity of government funded charter schools. Over the years, increasing numbers of Catholic families have abandoned Catholic schools in favor of the free tuition offered by charter schools. A number of these charter schools do provide a good secular education. However, being government funded these schools are prohibited from providing religious instruction, including Catholic teachings, to their students.
The questions posed by this now unfortunately common anomaly - Catholic parents choosing government funded schools over Catholic schools - is whether this is best for our Catholic children?
I believe the answer to this question is a resounding no. As Catholic parents, we are the primary educators of our children. There is a big difference between entrusting our children to a secular school instead of a Catholic school.
According to the Second Vatican Council, Catholic parents have "the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability." Second Vatican Council, Declaration on Christian Education, Sec. 8 (Oct. 25, 1965).
More recently, the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education stated that it is the duty of Catholic parents to "arrange and even demand for their children to be able to receive a moral and religious education and advance in their Christian formation to a degree that is abreast of their development in secular subjects." Vatican Letter on Catholic Education, (Sept. 8, 2009).
As such, we Catholic parents should not take lightly our obligation to provide a Catholic education for our children.
On a personal note, I remember in my early years as a parent hearing the sermon of a local Catholic priest who, when pressed on why he stressed Catholic theology in his parish school, he proclaimed that "his job was to help get our children to Heaven not Harvard."
The good news is that Catholic children have great options to attend academically excellent Catholic schools where they are taught faith and reason, rather than just reason alone which is what government funded charter schools and public schools are limited to.
A case in point is the school my younger children attend. Ville de Marie Academy (www.vdmschool.com) is a non-Diocesan school in the Catholic tradition located in Scottsdale, Arizona. The school is academically challenging, the children attend Mass weekly and they receive daily instruction in Catholic theology. Our teachers are knowledgeable about the Catholic faith and many have graduated from leading Catholic colleges like Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University of Steubenville and Christendom College. Our graduating seniors this year averaged over $75,000 in college scholarship awards. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. It's a great school where the children are being prepared to be successful in the important ways; spiritually, academically and socially.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Catholic schools, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, faith and reason, Ville de Marie Academy, charter school, Mark Henry
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