January 31, 2020
Today ends Catholic Schools Week – a week celebrating Catholic school communities around the country. I have been involved in Catholic education for 27 years, nineteen of those years as an administrator.
Allow me to share my perspective on the value of a Catholic education. With free public education nearby, there may be some who are taking a hard look at the cost of educating their child(ren) at a Catholic school. My hope is that consideration is given to value rather than cost alone. Here are some of my experiences of Catholic schools:
Faith – The Catholic faith permeates every aspect of Catholic schools. We instruct in the faith through the work of our Theology Department. We celebrate our faith at weekly all-school Mass. We pray. We pray at the beginning of each day and at the beginning of each class. Every meeting begins with prayer. We offer Reconciliation every other week and Adoration monthly. The staff regularly participates in faith formation sessions and has after-school scripture study available to them. All members of the school community are experiencing ongoing faith formation simply by being in the building.
We keep an open dialogue going with God and we feel his presence in the building at all times. Most importantly, we make a concerted effort to live our faith and share our faith with others – to be both disciples and apostles. We take care to treat one another with kindness and charity and look to serve others through ministry activities and outreach programs. We are not perfect, but we work to hold ourselves accountable and seek forgiveness when we fail. Faith is alive. What dollar figure do you put on that? What value do you place on it?
Accountability – Each of us are blessed with God-given abilities. “Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on the lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:15). It is the goal of every member of the faculty, staff, and administration to help our students reach their full potential – to shine their light. We do this by helping them maximize their God-given ability. We challenge them, call them to task, guide them, and affirm them. We love them. Perhaps most importantly, we expect them to hold both themselves and others accountable. The same is expected of the adults in the building. Great things happen when young people realize their potential and then help others do the same. What dollar figure do you put on that? What value do you place on it?
Community – An active community that genuinely cares about one another can accomplish amazing things. Catholic school students are not simply one of 200 or 400 or 700 kids in the building. They are not GPA’s or SAT scores. They are young people with unique gifts and individualized needs. They carry around baggage of self-doubt, struggling relationships, the pressure to succeed and quite simply, the pressure to be a good kid when there are so many avenues of destruction available in our culture. However, everywhere they turn they find support. At home or at school (their other home), they have people dedicated to keeping them on the right path and loving them, even at those times when they are not all that lovable. What does that cost? What value do you place on that?
I am not sure what you would come up with if you punched all of this information into a calculator. To steal a line from the MasterCard commercials — a Catholic education, priceless. The experience of a Catholic school will continue to pay dividends to you and your children for many years to come. That’s value.