Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The value of a Catholic Education...

... is not a matter of being taught math and history by priests and nuns, as some mistakenly think it is. It's really about forming the mind simultaneously with the soul, at least in principle.

I've been meaning to post about this for a few months. The following is from the principal's column in my high school's October newsletter concerning Catholic schools:
Catholic schools have traditionally provided excellent college preparatory training, and routinely produce some of the top students in the country each year...

Catholic schools, because they are usually smaller and can better individualize the educational experience for their students, are sometimes viewed (especially in urban areas) as safer environments in which to receive an education. If you have chosen St. Joseph High School for any of these reasons, I am sorry to say you have chosen it for the wrong reason.
Get that? And now it gets interesting:
The mission of Catholic education is unique, and the call to ministry in Catholic schools sets teachers and staff members apart from those who work in other places. Catholic Bishops regard Catholic schools as “an essential ministry of the Catholic Church”, so when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided to start a Catholic high school in the Santa Maria Valley, it did so to enhance the spiritual enlightenment of our students through the teaching of Catholic doctrine and not for any other reasons. Fr. Ed often reminds our students that “it doesn’t matter if you get in to Harvard if you don’t get in to heaven.” Similarly, it doesn’t matter if you get a full ride football scholarship to USC, if you don’t know right from wrong. If you are content in languishing in the safety and security of a school like St. Joseph, but you haven’t opened your heart enough to concern yourself with the health and well-being of the rest of humankind, then your education has failed you.

When it comes to helping students to develop their spirituality and to building closer faith relationships with God, certainly not all of our students “get it” right away. But we as Catholic educators are about the business of planting spiritual seeds, seeds that may take a long time to germinate, but seeds that will grow and flower sometimes long after we are gone. It is that potential to develop young people who will become better human beings sooner or maybe later, that is the reason that Catholic schools exist. This is what Archbishop Oscar Romero was saying when he wrote,
“We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work... We plant seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise… We may never see the end results… We are prophets of a future not our own.”
I am hoping this is the reason that you chose St. Joseph High School for your child. We know that St. Joseph provides its students with a great education in a fun-filled and safe environment, but we also know that is not the reason we exist, and it is our collective job to remind others what is the real reason.
I was very happy to see this. My experience at St. Joseph was instrumental in my embrace of the Catholic Faith. It had its share of problems, but I constantly thank God for my time there. The extent of what I received there is still being realized even today.

After I graduated, the school went downhill fast with severe administration problems and, I'm sorry to say, really bad hiring decisions. However, over the last few years, they have made a decent comeback and have really attempted to assert their Christian identity in the community. The current principal's attitude is further proof of that renewed attitude.

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