Raise a ruler and pull up your knee socks if you’re excited that it’s National Catholic Schools week.
This weekend, the Diocese of Austin held one kick-tail dinner, benefiting all our 22 Catholic schools. Our keynote was Cardinal Dolan and he did not disappoint. There was something – okay, lots of things – he said that really hit me in the heart. Namely? That he asks every introduction of him to begin with his name, his family and his education at his K-8 Catholic school. “The rest,” he said, “is just gravy. But that’s the meat and potatoes.”
Where we come from and who first forms us in the faith matter most – those were powerful statements.
I am, unashamedly, Catholic schools number one fan. I grew up Protestant and went to public schools all my life, as did my husband. Yet, we’ve chosen a Catholic education for our children and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of the experience our children are having.
There are so many things to know about Catholic schools, but I suppose these are the three I think are most important:
- Catholic schools are open to anyone, Catholic or not. They seek to form the whole child, body, mind and soul. Their primary job is to get our kids to heaven. Academics may have led us in the door and athletics and extra-curriculars may feed their mind and bodies, but it has been the intangibles of faith that have kept us there. Whether it be saint projects or adoration, weekly school Mass or prayer time, my children are learning to love their faith while putting equal importance on loving one another, no matter the differences.
- A Catholic school’s success largely lies with the community. Does the priest sing the school’s praises and help parents find a way to make an education possible? Are parents involved, building community and enhancing the curriculum? Does the parish community support the school’s expenses financially? I get so many emails from parents telling me how lucky we are that our schools are so successful. You know what my reply is? No, we aren’t. We have busted tail to make our kids’ schools thrive, as has our diocese, our bishop, our priest, our faculty/staff and our parents. We’re a team and we have to be accountable to one another. It’s time we started holding people’s feet to the fire. You want to make your school better? It starts at your dinner table.
- The sacrifices are worth it. I hesitate to say Scott and I sacrifice (I mean, we all do), but I have been humbled to meet families who make significant sacrifices – commuting more than an hour, working two jobs, volunteering hundreds of hours and the list goes on. What are you willing to change about your lifestyle to send your kids to Catholic school? And if you are shaking your head telling me you can’t afford it, I hope you’ll make an appointment with your priest or school principal to find out if there’s a way. A priest in our diocese is sending 88 students from his parish to local schools who live at, near, or below, the poverty level. They’re sacrificing and he’s fundraising and they’re finding a way. I love that.
I’ve written before about the benefits of a Catholic education. Our schools aren’t perfect, but they are thriving and every day we do something to make them better. I hope you’ll give it some thought and know that I’m always here to answer your questions!