Hooray for Catholic schools

| Father Michael Van Sloun | January 25, 2018 | 1 Comment

National Catholic Schools Week is upon us. The week of festivities — Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 — is a time to feature one of the most important ministries of the Church and our parishes, and to toot our own horn about the excellent quality of education that our Catholic schools provide.

I am a lifer when it comes to Catholic schools, and I treasure my Catholic education. I have attended Catholic schools every step of the way: elementary school at Incarnation in south Minneapolis; high school and junior college at Crosier Seminary in Onamia; an undergraduate degree at St. Francis College in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and a graduate theology degree at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. My teachers have been the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, the Sisters of St. Joseph, and many other religious and dedicated lay teachers.

The Catholic faith is woven into every aspect of the curriculum, and it sets the bar for students’ beliefs, attitudes and conduct. I will never forget the lasting impression made by my high school biology teacher, Father Henry Mehr, as he expounded upon the intricacies of cell structure, paused, looked up, and exclaimed to us wide-eyed students, “God be praised! God created all this!” It is no wonder that spiritual values have become the fabric of my being.

I have gone from learning at Catholic schools to serving in them for my entire ministerial life, first as a high school teacher and coach at Crosier Seminary, and then at Central Catholic in Grand Island, Nebraska. I was briefly an administrative assistant at Hales Franciscan in Chicago, and then I moved on to the parish schools at St. Stephen in Anoka and St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. Watching so many young people in these Catholic schools “advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52) has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

Catholic schools are unique. Although the principal is in charge, it’s Jesus who’s always most important and is the first teacher. The school calendar might be in quarters or semesters, but the liturgical calendar and its seasons and feasts are always celebrated. It is necessary to have a school handbook with a clear set of policies and rules, but the primary guidebook is always the Gospel. Society touts freedom of expression and speech, while Catholic schools foster decorum and well-governed speech. Catholic schools offer learning imbued with spiritual values.

If you are a parent with preschool-age children, please make a Catholic education a priority for them. If you are a parent with school-age children and have them enrolled in a Catholic school, thank you. If you are a parent with school-age children and do not have them enrolled in a Catholic school, please consider it. The doors are always open; transfer students are always welcome. If you do not have school-age children yet support Catholic education with your donations, by volunteering at the school or by spreading the good news, thank you. If you do not have school-age children and have not had much to do with a Catholic school, please consider jumping on the bandwagon, because it is rewarding to be part of a winning effort.

Our Catholic schools are fantastic. The academics are rock solid. The Catholic faith is taught with joy and conviction. The name of Jesus, the great teacher, is proclaimed unabashedly so that each student will come to know, love and serve his or her master and Lord.

Father Van Sloun is pastor of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata. Read more of his writing at CatholicHotdish.com.

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Category: Faith Fundamentals

  • John Perry

    I would like to see test scores from Catholic schools to compare how they stack up against charter and public schools in their neighborhoods. When exploring Catholic schools for my children I came away unimpressed with the academics, but without objective data it’s hard to know for sure how they stack up. What finally made me decide against my local Catholic School was neighbor who told me how much she regretted sending her kid there. When he entered public high school in 9th grade he was way behind his peers.