Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to renew our understanding and appreciation for the importance of Catholic Schools. Catholic Schools are important not only to the individuals and families they serve but to the parishes which support and promote them. Some of their impact is not immediately seen.
According to the 1964 Blog of June 13, 2014, on the CARA (Center for Applied Research) website, at Georgetown University, there are national studies of Catholic practices and behaviors which illustrate how important Catholic Schools are to parish life in three significant areas.
- Mass Attendance – Catholic School graduates are more likely to attend Mass regularly. In fact, those students who attend Catholic high school, college, university, or graduate school have the highest rates of Mass attendance.
- Sacrament of Confirmation – Catholic School graduates receive this Sacrament at a higher level than other groupings of Catholics.
- Vocations – the highest percentages of vocations to the priesthood, sisterhood and lay ecclesial ministry come from Catholic School graduates.
For these reasons alone, every parish should support and promote a Catholic School. This is even more possible today than in the so-called “golden age” when every parish was to have its own school, even though at its peak only 52% of all Catholic parishes had a school. Parishes can now support and promote regional, area, and deanery systems of Catholic Schools.
Data alone does not tell the whole story about the importance of Catholic Schools. Over the years as a diocesan planner and parish consultant, I have heard from many pastors of parishes with a Catholic elementary school who witnessed to the importance of these schools. Their experiences and observations about schools fall into three primary areas:
- Wholistic Faith Formation – Children and parents in a Catholic School are much more likely to learn and recognize that faith is part of everyday living not just a Sunday affair. That is because Catholic Schools integrate the spiritual, academic and communal aspects of life.
- Relationships – Not only do children develop friendships with fellow students but relationship is fostered between parents and families. Over time, a special bond can also develop for former students with the parish itself.
- Volunteerism and Service – Students in Catholic Schools are taught to give of themselves to others and often experience opportunities to do so as part of their faith formation. Pastors know that they can turn to and count on Catholic School parents and students to help with various ministries in the parish or to participate in them.
Catholic Schools play a vital and important role in the Church on a parish as well as a national level. Every Catholic should, at minimum, have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school at some level of education. The future of our parishes depends on Catholic education.