Bringing the Basics Back to Catholic Schools

Bringing the Basics Back to Catholic Schools

Picture this fictional, yet accurate, scenerio: It’s 1959, and St. Procopius Catholic School is flourishing. There are two of every grade and 18 religious sisters who serve the students. Sister Mary Pius has recently told all the eighth-grade boys that God may be calling them to the priesthood, and six of her girls are going out to the motherhouse in the spring to talk about joining the order after high school. Sister Walburga is getting the seventh graders ready to start the algebra textbook. Sister Mary Regina is teaching the second graders on how to receive Holy Communion (using Necco wafers). Father Keller is helping the fifth-grade servers learn the Latin responses. And the rest of the student body devoutly believes that Ora pro nobis is really “O, rubber noses.” This Catholic parish and school have created a loving community that immerses over 900 families in their faith. It is their whole world.

Flash forward 50 years to St. Procopius: There are 306 students in the school, and about 45 percent are Catholic. The religious sisters have all retired and lay men and women teach now. St. Procopius is still an exceptional academic school. But, to many, it appears to be a private school that happens to be Catholic rather than a Catholic school that happens to be private. Families from outside the parish send their children there for an excellent education, and faith is secondary.

So where does that leave us, the hope-filled faithful, who want our memories of the past to be the vision of the future?

I believe we need to see Catholic schools for what they were originally intended to be: a playing field for evangelization. Our grandparents invested in these schools because they believed that fertile ground was necessary for planting the seeds of faith.

We have an amazing opportunity to bring whole families back to the practice of faith if we play our cards right. In my years as a Catholic educator, nothing has been more rewarding than seeing parents and their children baptized at the Easter Vigil because a teacher, principal, or DRE invited them to become Catholic. There is no finer moment for me than welcoming a newly baptized student back to that first school Mass after Easter and seeing him or her receive Eucharist with the rest of the student body. For you see, Catholic schools are not only about forming minds and bodies. We are there to form souls, and that makes all the difference. Our grandparents knew it, lived it, and literally bet their last bottom dollar on it.

Instead of getting lost in things of the past, let’s begin something new: Catholic schools where the faculty is passionate about their Catholic faith and teach the gospel in everything they do; school families who attend the parish Mass on Sunday and know that school and parish go hand in hand; students who pray and live faith in every aspect of their lives. The vision and the mission have not changed in 50 years. God is beginning something new. God is asking you and me to reach out and evangelize the unchurched in our Catholic schools. We have a marvelous opportunity to help the Kingdom come.

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Photo:
Karen Roach/PhotoXpress
Permission to reprint courtesy of The Catholic Telegraph

 
 

About the Author

Jeanne Hunt is a product development director at Franciscan Media. She is a well-known speaker and author on topics of women’s spirituality, marriage and family life. Her latest book is Celebrating Saints and Seasons: Hundreds of Activities for Catholic Children.
 
 
 
  • Gail Finke

    Hear, hear! 

  • Jacobmay94

    Personally, I think that Jeanne Hunt is incorrect. I think the majority of Catholic schools have faculty who are passionate about their Catholic faith. We have spent two weeks talking about lenten promises.

  • Squirrelgrl93

    I attend a Catholic school and I completely disagree. I am in my newspaper journalism class which has turned into a second religion class in my opinion. Everything we do in that class is linked to our religious beliefs: tweets, blog posts, newspaper, etc. I think, at least my school is still very much devoted to Catholic teaching.

  • Solimanto

    This is not true. I am attending a Catholic high school currently as my parents are just barely making tuition payments. I am here for the education and to excel in life. I am also a devoted Catholic whom participates in going to mass and receiving the Body of Christ. I do agree that some parents send their kids to Catholic schools that are not even Catholic. I would do the same thing, if the education is better than your other choices then go with it. It’s all about options.

  • Catholic School Student

    The schools have changed to a “private school that happens to be Catholic.” However this is not a bad thing. The main purpose of school is to teach children, to much time of each say is already taken up by religion classes at Catholic schools.  

  • george B

    I attend a Catholic school and I think Catholic schools are not the same as before. There are no sisters, no priests. But we still do go to Church and pray before each day. Also we have a religion class and our newspaper is based on faith. I think it is the same goals but just in a more modern way. In this article you say “This Catholic parish and school have created a loving community that immerses over 900 families in their faith.” at my school there is still a huge parish and we have a huge family that attends church every week

  • Veroinca Y.

    In my opinion, Catholic schools are still considered Catholic. I attend a Catholic high school and we are definitely involved in our faith. As students, we attend Adoration once a week, pray together as a community before and after school, and go to church at least once a month. Obviously times are changing and Catholic schools are not going to be as strict as they were before. Not everyone is going to want to go into the priesthood or mother house and most Catholic schools are not going to be talking and learning about our Catholic faith throughout the entire day. However, God is definitely still present in our schools and there is still that faith-filled atmosphere that you wouldn’t get at a public or private school.

  • Emma Rose

    Private schools are not a place where rich kids misbehave. It’s a place where you can grow in your faith, while being surrounded by people who share the same beliefs. Catholic schools ARE a place where “the faculty is passionate about their Catholic faith.” When teachers feel the need to share a story about how they turn to God in need, then I know it is not just me who turns to him. I learn through their example, which is a good one.     

  • Jacoblawrence23

    I think Catholic schools are still Catholic. I attend a Catholic high school and we attend church, we celebrate Catholic holidays, I’ve had a religion class in each semester, and I even see Father walking the halls occaisonally. I can see why people would say Catholic schools are trending away from being Catholic, buts it’s not it’s all around me. It’s still a great education, people who aren’t Catholic should be able to get the same education I’m getting.

  • Mike

    I think that Catholic are still good for all kids and that you are wrong and that people go to Catholic schools to escape other things in the world. also 50 years ago there were nuns in schools but there was also physical punishment at that time like hitting kids and that is not very Catholic if you ask me, or any one else. Though there is some misbehavior, it is handled quite well without nuns. Just because Catholic schools change doesn’t mean it’s for the worst.  

  • Mr Bob Betty Yohan

    “Catholic
    schools where the faculty is passionate about their Catholic faith and
    teach the gospel in everything they do; school families who attend the
    parish Mass on Sunday and know that school and parish go hand in hand;
    students who pray and live faith in every aspect of their lives. The
    vision and the mission have not changed in 50 years.” I do not agree with this. I attend a catholic school, and there are many priests and very many nuns. Our school is great. If our school was like how it was 50  years ago, all we would be learning was faith and getting abused with rulers by nouns. It has become more civil. We have been talking about lenten promises for weeks. Your article is not 100% factual. I personally believe this is just not very true, but I like how you presented your standpoint.

  • Dcvtennis

    I agree that Catholics Schools do need to become more Catholic. Also, Catholic schools, should have sisters, nuns, and Priests teaching in the school. Having sisters, nuns, and priests, they can help us become a better Catholic school. But I would not say all Catholic schools “appear to be a private school that happens to Catholic rather than a Catholic school that happens to be private.” Not all Catholic schools appear to be that way. My parents went to a Catholic school also, and they did have nuns that were their teachers and they do at times say we should too have nuns to be our teachers. My sister who graduated in 2009, had two nuns as a teacher when we she went to elementary school.

  • Olivia

    I go to a Catholic School and I disagree with this article. Our school is very structured and teaches us more than just academics, but also spiritual learning. We talk about our faith most of the day in my journalism class, it is one of the main goals of the school. It has been the same as it has always been here. Growing in faith and knowledge.

  • Berryn

    Dear Jeanne,
    I agree with the message you are trying to prove in this article. When my parents attended catholic school, almost all their teachers were nuns. They always tell me stories about what it was like having them as their teachers. A lot of what they taught was faith based and I believe that it should still be like that especially in a catholic school. You stated “We have an amazing opportunity to bring whole families back to the practice of faith if we play our cards right.” I absolutely agree with this. We need to evangelize and bring people back into the catholic church and one way we can do that is to bring back the basics to catholic schools.

  • Sheppy9399

    I get where you are coming from, many parents send their kids to a Catholic school just for the education. Catholic schools are not just private but they are still Catholic. I go to a Catholic school, and we pray every day, and go to Church very often. Priests come in to our school, talk to us, and tell us about going in the Priest or Sisterhood. I think it seems that Catholic schools are not Catholic because so many people are not going into the order

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  • Di

    As we were looking at schools, we considered one Catholic school that, though I’m sure filled with well-intentioned people, pitched the school by basically saying, “If you’re Catholic you have to come here because we are a better class of people.  Put your kids in the Catholic bubble so they’re not with the bad public school kids whose parents don’t care.”  Very little was said about academics or anything else, the principal point blank refused to publicize the excellent credentials of their teachers or the successes of their graduates, just coasting on being holier than thou.  And they wondered why their enrollment was dropping.  We are now at a different Catholic school that certainly does all those good things mentioned in the article, but without the triumphalist attitude and with an equal emphasis on academics, and people are beating a path to their door.

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