Jesus is the added value that tips the scales for Catholic schools
The exact place and time are fuzzy but I remember the incident as clearly today as I did that day. Was it at St. Luke School in Gary or Blessed Sacrament in Glen Park? Fourth grade or fifth? I’m not sure but it made an impression on me.
At that stage of my youth, I didn’t give much thought to Catholic schools. If you were Catholic, you most likely attended a Catholic school. Just about every parish in every neighborhood had one in those days. Our moms would daily lay out our ugly plaid uniforms and hand us over to our teachers to continue to educate, mold and form us mentally and spiritually.
I loved washing the chalk boards after school in those days. In fact, Sister would have to insist I give others a turn but no one else liked to do it, so it was usually me. That day, Sister was working after class with a student we’ll call Bobby. Bobby had challenges and was, even to my untrained eye, an extremely slow learner. He constantly struggled to keep up with the class but his frustration often led to outbursts of temper and or tears.
Sister took him under her wing, constantly encouraging him, applauding his successes - no matter how small - tutoring him after school and even, so I was told, on weekends.
Out of that came my “aha!” moment in terms of the value of Catholic education, even if I didn’t fully realize it until much later.
One day after school, I was diligently scrubbing the boards. Our teacher sat near the front in a desk next to Bobby, who looked discouraged, downtrodden and weepy. They spoke in soft tones so it was hard to hear (even thought I strained to do so), but at one point, she put her arm around him and very firmly said, “Bobby, Jesus loves you exactly the way you are. You are perfect in his eyes and God has big things planned for you.”
I don’t know what happened to Bobby through the years but I do know something changed him that day. His step became a bit lighter and he held his head a little higher when he hugged Sister and left for the day.
Jesus was in the classroom that day.
Admittedly, I don’t have children. If I did, I would hope my choice for them would be a Catholic education. I speak from my own experience of grade school, high school and college – all Catholic.
In today’s world, there is so much pressure on parents to choose the best for their children, especially in terms of education. The decisions to be made must, at times, be difficult.
Private or public education?
On the public side, you could argue that teachers are paid better; logic would argue public schools are more likely to attract the cream of the crop. Tuition and fees are minimal – paid through the state with our taxes. Public schools can afford the latest in technology, including computer and science labs. Students are exposed to a wider range of diversity.
I’m sure the list continues. Over the years I’ve heard quite a few reasons why public education trumps parochial. In some cases, maybe the naysayers are right. I don’t know; I’ve never attended a public school.
Here’s what I do know.
First and foremost, while Catholic school teachers are not among the highest paid, their credentials are outstanding (many winning awards and honors) and their dedication to teaching stands as a top priority. Teaching isn’t a merely a job or career for Catholic school teachers, it’s a ministry, a passion.
The latest technologies? Check out our Catholic schools? If they haven’t scheduled a Catholic Schools Week open house, call and make an appointment. They’d love to show you their school. All our schools can relate their academic achievements.
However, here is what I believe makes the choice for Catholic schools a no-brainer.
As Catholics, our faith is the anchor in our lives. Our love for Jesus should permeate our very beings.
When a child is welcomed into a Catholic school, that child becomes a part of a community grounded in faith that will further embrace, nurture and inspire the child as to the beauty of God’s love for them. Faith is not just a subject reserved for daily religion classes but rather brought into all aspects of a child’s learning…incorporated as part of who they are as beloved children of God.
What do I see as the biggest difference between public and Catholic schools?
Each day as the school doors are opened wide in our Catholic grade schools and high schools, Jesus is always the first to enter.
That’s powerful stuff, isn’t it?