Brian Ragatz, principal of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School, delivered the following message Jan. 30 at the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass at the Maplewood parish.
Before I begin, I’d like to start by thanking Fr. Mark (Huberty) for the opportunity to speak and tell you about our school. I’d also like to thank the Knights of Columbus for hosting a pancake breakfast today.
This morning is the start of Catholic Schools Week. Although it is a very fun and active week, it is important to try to slow down and put into perspective what Catholic schools, and in particular Presentation, provide students on a daily basis.
As most of you know, the Archdiocese is embarking on a restructure of its parishes and schools. As a whole, it has brought us all back to one question: Why do Catholic Schools matter?
Some believe that it does not matter where a student goes to school. I disagree. Please allow me to articulate four reasons why a Catholic education at Presentation matters.
First, learning matters. I can tell you all the statistics you would like to hear about how products of Catholic schools have higher test scores, or their near-perfect high school graduation rate, or the growing number of those with a Catholic education going to four-year colleges or universities (all of which are true), but it is not about statistics. It is about learning. At Presentation, we do not simply deliver information to children; we teach children, and we teach them how to learn.
We teach to the child, not to the book, not to the class, and certainly, not to the standardized test. Presentation has high standards that push children to reach their potential and beyond. The only way this is possible is because our teachers know your child, I know, your child, Fr. Mark knows your child.
This type of care and personal attention for your child is immeasurable. We spend over 35 hours a week helping them grow in faith and knowledge. We know them and we do what it takes for them succeed.
The second reason why Presentation matters is one very close to my heart, and that is safety. Plain and simple: Safety matters. Over the past four years, we have installed new perimeter and interior locks on all of our doors. However, safety is more than just locks; it is about community. We look after each other. Just about every teacher knows every student. We know who is who and where they should be. Our teachers work as a team to make sure each child is safe.
Third, we whole-heartily believe that Character matters. At Presentation, we feel that one of our major roles is to provide an education that goes beyond the classroom. We teach each child how to be a good person; we teach integrity and provide them with a moral compass to make good decisions. In the younger grades, we have classes dedicated to how to be a friend. We teach them that having manners and being courteous is important, and I teach them to look people in the eye when they firmly shake someone’s hand.
As a parochial school, we are able to do all of these things in any class, at any time. Many schools do not have the luxury to teach character and even those that do, simply do not. We do. It is fundamentally part of who we are, and I would not have it any other way.
Finally, and considering where I am right now, I may be preaching to the choir here, but Faith Matters. This is the most important aspect of our school. A few weeks ago, I walked by the second grade room and over heard the students talk about their reconciliation. What a wonderful experience for them to do that together, and then talk about it in school.
Each child is different, that was God’s intention, which is why we treat each one as individual gifts from God, even when they are sent to my office.
I often speak of forming the foundations of a child and faith is where it stems from. To me, the bottom line is that: Faith is the cornerstone of life.
Without it, personal successes and achievements have little relevance. With it, you realize that your successes and achievements are not only for you, but should be shared with others; with your family, friends, teachers, homeless, and homebound, just as Jesus taught us. We teach this type of stewardship in every grade. In fact, we have a one of a kind stewardship program where each month every student prays and offers their time, talents, and treasures, to Fr. Mark in the giving basket at the offertory during all school Mass.
Presentation takes the role of faith formation very seriously. Fr. Mark once said that we are not a private school; we are a parochial school. A private school’s job is to get you into Harvard; a Parochial school’s job is to get you into heaven.
Parents, no matter where you are with you own faith, the opportunity to give your child the cornerstone they need for life is one that should not be passed up.
Overall, we prepare students very well to face all the challenges that will come their way in the future. I realize that our education is a sacrifice, but by attending Presentation school, your child will establish a foundation of moral structure and develop integrity that cannot always be achieved in other schools. Your sacrifice should be look at as an investment in your child. It is an investment that is not only well worth it, but one that will last a lifetime.
And let me be clear, Fr. Mark and I are committed to providing and education to every child in this parish that desires it, regardless of financial ability.
In conclusion, I personally welcome you to our Open House today to visit the school and see all the great things we are doing. If nothing else, please stop by and see our new resource room donated by the Wold Family. That room came together because of the countless hours of dozens of volunteers including a custom-built cabinet made by Dave Blanda. You will not want to miss it!
As we begin Catholic School Week, let us spend this time celebrating Catholic schools, but recognize what matters to us: Learning, Safety, Character, and Faith. These foundations of a faith-filled, successful child start right here at Presentation of Mary School.
Thank you for your time today and God Bless.