Catholic Schools: A Complete Education

I used to be Catholic


Deciding where one’s kids should be educated can be a difficult task, especially in areas where there are so many good public, parochial, and charter schools. Many parents also choose home-schooling, and do a wonderful job. There are certainly a myriad of choices, but perhaps our values hierarchy should help us choose.

Compartmentalizing Values

Many Catholic parents, exposed to decades of an increasingly secularized society, have learned to compartmentalize the values in their lives. The days Monday through Friday are for earning income. Friday and Saturday evenings are for entertainment. Sunday, or at least an hour of it, is for God. Family is mixed in throughout. Out of 168 hours in a week, many of us find time to give God only 1 hour in return, with a sprinkling of prayers here and there at meals, before bedtime, and times of need. Many of us have unwittingly pushed our faith aside, and it is no longer integrated into our daily lives, as much as we may desire it to be. Broken into a percentage, that hour represents just .596% of our week, or roughly half of one percent. I say this not to criticize, because this had been my life as well. I bring this up merely to point out that due to this unfortunate compartmentalization, and the other busyness of life, we may be failing in evangelizing our own children (not to mention ourselves) simply due to time constraints.

Discerning Where to Educate Our Children

I have many Catholic friends who send their kids to good public and charter schools, and they have their reasons for doing so. I also have friends who home-school their kids while immersing them in their faith. I respect these choices, as many of them are very devout, and many made their choices for financial reasons. However, for those who can send their kids to Catholic schools and are not otherwise providing their kids a full Catholic education, I think they are making a mistake. I have concluded that educating my kids anywhere but in a school grounded in the Catholic faith can only limit their education. If you are a parent who believes God is the most important person in our lives, above all else, how then could we make any other decision than to send our kids to a school where not only can they learn about Him daily but also openly praise Him? Without Him, is not an education incomplete?

In comparing some Catholic schools to other schools, there can be some weaknesses, admittedly. Some schools are able to direct their focus toward certain things that are different from a Catholic school’s focus. And frankly, some are just much better funded. Some might have a better science program, or art department, or better sports facilities. Some might give all of their kids iPads. Home-schoolers certainly have the best student to teacher ratios. But kids educated outside the faith do not have what my kids have, and to me that is a huge void that is difficult to later fill.

Benefits of Catholic Education

When kids walk into a non-Catholic school, they do not get to sit at a desk and look up at a Crucifix, and realize someone died so that they may live. They do not get to see a picture of Mary on the wall, and know that She looks down upon them with love. In some schools, they are not able to even say the Pledge of Allegiance because the word “God” offends some people. They are not able to pray both morning and afternoon prayers, and say Grace aloud before lunch. They do not have a nun or a priest – people who have devoted their lives to God – standing before them teaching class. And the rest of their teachers probably are not identifiably Catholic. They certainly do not have any religion classes, nor textbooks for other subjects taught from a Christian perspective. I dare say they do not ever gather outside together on certain days to say decades of the Rosary aloud with the rest of the school. They do not prepare for the Sacraments in non-Catholic schools, let alone even discuss what they are. They probably are not allowed to say the word “Catholic” in class, and are likely taught to shy away from mentioning Jesus. Kids attending a non-Catholic school are not protected from the predators promoting secularism, and who teach sex “how-to” courses whilst handing out condoms. They do not attend Mass one or more times per school week with their 500 schoolmates, pastor, teachers, and many parents. They may not hear, let alone learn, Latin. They do not get the privilege of being altar servers and lectors, and reading the word of God during school hours. They will absolutely not receive the Body of Christ, ever, on their campus. Tragically, they spend eight hours each day in their classroom, nine months of the year, and never hear about God, Jesus, the communion of saints, the Holy Spirit, Mary, Heaven, the catechism, the Bible, angels, or prayer.

Are all the things I mentioned above important to everyone?  No, but they should be to parents raising children to be Catholics. We all want our children to grow up to be financially stable and “happy.” We must ask though, how can they really do either of these things successfully outside their faith? I know a lot of wealthy people who are miserable. They put a misguided understanding of success before what matters most. We want our kids to get the best grades, go to the best universities, and become doctors or scientists. But if our kids do so, and they never have a meaningful relationship with God, and are never prepared for Heaven, have we really succeeded as parents?

Parenting and Vocation

Parenting as Catholics is a vocation. We have a responsibility far beyond providing our kids’ meals, an education, and comfortable homes. We have an obligation to introduce them to Christ, and to help build that relationship. We are called by God to prepare their hearts, minds, and souls. Catechism classes certainly help many kids without access to Catholic education learn the basics about our faith. And many parents do a wonderful job sharing their faith on a constant, daily basis with their children. But if you are like me and are not the best teacher of the Faith, or cannot provide a Catholic home-schooled education, then I implore you to look into Catholic schools. There is often financial assistance through scholarships and other agencies available to many parents who may have financial barriers.

I can hear some saying now, “but our Catholic schools are not very good, or very Catholic or (fill in the blank).” Perhaps that is true but think of how much better they would be if Catholic parents refused to accept mediocrity. If Catholic parents demanded the best of their local schools from their Bishops, pastors, and administrators, would they not improve?  Moreover, think about the potential good you could be doing for an entire community of kids by exposing them to genuinely devoted Catholic kids and parents. Helping to improve your Catholic school, if it is in need of help, is a very charitable act – one that could leave a legacy for generations. Having served five years on my kids’ school’s advisory board, I can assure you it is very rewarding, so much so, that I am seeking other opportunities to serve.

My kids are getting a superior education, but more importantly a full and complete education, steeped in the richness of our faith. And while Catholic schooling is no substitute for the proper, daily witness by parents, they are being fully prepared for life, and all that lies ahead. Further, they know that they can turn to God and prayer at any time to help them through rough times, and also show gratitude for their multiple blessings. And it is not just their dad telling them this and doing his best to be a witness (which is essential of course). It is an entire community of Catholics – pastor, other priests, nuns, teachers, parents, and fellow students.  They may not have all the things many kids enjoy at some other schools, but I submit they are getting much more. If possible, I hope your kids will join them.

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10 thoughts on “Catholic Schools: A Complete Education”

  1. When we converted to the Catholic Church several years ago, we enthusiastically enrolled our 7th grade daughter in the parish church, but we didn’t make it more than a month before we ran into problems with the teacher about polygenism, Adam and Eve as mythical, and other heresies. Fortunately our daughter, being knowledgeable from her evangelical church Sunday school classes, recognized the problems and told us about it. We found that most of her cradle-Catholic classmates were completely ignorant about the Bible or Church doctrines. The pastor and the diocesan DRE backed the teacher and said that the encyclical Humani Generis had been superseded by “modern theologians”. We ended up changing parishes when the pastor chided us that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was “only a guideline”, not meant to be taken seriously. We sent our daughter back to the public school, where at least we (and she) understood what we would be getting, without the deception that it would be in any way Catholic.

    We talked with other parents and learned that the local Catholic high school is even more heterodox than our parish school, plus it has a “snobby rich-kids” reputation and the worst drug problems of any school in the county. Several of our friends told us they regretted spending over $100k to send their children to Catholic schools, only to have the kids’ faith destroyed by the teachers and administrators.

    We truly love the Church, but in general it seems really ineffective at teaching the faith to children, either in the schools or in parish classes. We and our kids are living in different cities now, but the situation here is very similar. Our kids have decided to home school our grandchildren unless the bishop will seriously clean house of all the heterodox teachers and officials in the chancery and the schools.

  2. It sounds like your kids attend an authentic Catholic school. Unfortunately, so many of them are Catholic in name only now. Before I started homeschooling, my husband and I sent our two girls to Catholic school. We were not impressed with it. The textbooks, except for religion, were all secular, so they included Common Core. Most of the students were not Catholic, and many of the teachers didn’t seem to be either. The library contained no classical literature or books about saints. When my kindergarten daughter would hear about PG-13 rated movies from her classmates, I knew this was not the environment I wanted my kids in. Plus, the cost was getting outrageous. Why pay for a public school-type education with a religion class thrown in? I homeschool them know out of necessity. If there was a good, authentic Catholic school that was affordable I would send them. But those are now very few and far between.

  3. When a Catholic education is regarded as an essential part of religious life and supported by BOTH parishioners and clergy at all levels, then you will have a reawakening in the pews. At the present time, costs of attending Catholic schools have turned them into little more than elite academies for parents wealthy enough to escape increasingly incompetent public schools. Take a look at mass attendance by those under age 40 and then consider why churches are closing or consolidating.

  4. In our Bill of Rights we have “Freedom of Religion,” which should entitle Catholic paid school taxes to be used in Catholic schools. The Charter School program specifically denies religious education. The Blaine amendment, which still applies in over thirty States is specific in denying Catholic Schools “government funding” (school taxes). We have had anti discrimination laws passed for weaker causes so it is time that Catholics stood up for our rights.

  5. Excellent article. I would like to add that the biggest problem for most parents is cost. This problem can only be fully resolved by Catholics demanding their rights, by getting the laws changed so that our taxes entitle us to send children to the school of our choice.

    1. Rights. There is no right to education in the Constitution. In a just society, an accredited Catholic school which did not teach violence or subversion, would be fairly awarded a level of funding comparable to government schools. We do not live in a just society as 50 million dead babies testify to God in heaven. Where State money goes, there will go State initiatives such as sex education, the homosexual agenda, Common Core at al. There is away to address the cost but our Church, Synod Against the Family, USCCB) studiously ignore it.
      It’s all about the money for pour clerics.
      Every parish should have, as its second most important mission after the Mass and sacraments, a local endowment fund dedicated to teacher’s salaries at the nearest Catholic school. Each diocese could publish exemplar 501(c)3 paperwork and bylaws to get the funds started. Each diocese could identify suitable investment vehicles for the funds such as the Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund among others. The funds should be staffed by volunteers to the largest extent possible. Web sites should be established for on-line contributions by electronic transfer. The funds would distribute to Catholic schools to offset teacher salaries at a ratio of Catholic kids versus the total student body. Non Catholics and non-practicing Catholics would be required to pay a full tuition. (My wife has to prove faithful church attendance to qualify for her Samaritan health cooperative, this after my company terminated her coverage in our retirement). It would take a long time to get these funds up to a muscular heft but if every parish priest appealed for a monthly donation as the second most important charity, the growth might be surprising. Many. Many baby boomer grandparents would love to make tax deductible contributions to their grandchildren’s parishes. There is a vast amount of wealth out there looking for noble causes. Another poster some months ago informed us that the diocese of Topeka? Kansas provides a tuition free education to all of its faithful Catholic families.
      The bishops will never give up control of the funds because they have their own social agendas and the faithful Catholic families sitting in the pews seem not to be very high on the list. Secondly, they haven’t the foggiest notion in the world how difficult it is for the average middle class family to come up with $8k+ after tax per child to pay tuition. They live in anether world.

    2. While education may not be mentioned in the US Constitution, there is no doubt that society benefits from educated citizens. However, public funding should go to public schools. The funding of religious and other private schools should fall to those who elect to attend… and that includes Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or any other private school.

  6. Sixty-five years ago when I graduated from a Catholic High School, after eight years in a Catholic grammar school, the teachers, as members of religious orders of priests and nuns, were working for room and board. Their vows of poverty provided our poor neighborhood with a first class education. God bless them. I don’t understand how Catholic education can survive without them today.

    1. It really won’t unless it’s a mission of the whole Church; we’re priced out in my town. $11k per child in high school, with four children and 16 years total there’s really just no way.

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