Why Catholic schools?
Why Catholic schools? Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, visited America in the 1830s and commented on practically everything. He said this about public schooling: “It cannot be doubted that in the United States the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of the democratic republic; and such must always be the case, I believe, where the instruction which enlightens the understanding is not separated from the moral education which amends the heart …”
There is the issue – the separation of the intellectual and moral formation of our young people. Today, in most of our public education, it is almost impossible to provide a solid moral formation to go along with the textbook learning that is taking place. That is why, today more than ever, our Catholic schools play a critical role not just to prepare Catholic leaders for the future, but also to prepare solid citizens whose amended hearts will help to lead our country along right paths.
The third council of Baltimore in 1884 noted: “… it can hardly fail to happen that the young, steeped in the secular spirit from childhood, generally become by degrees and without their being aware of it, not only lovers of the blind world, but by that very fact also haters of Christ and opponents of the Church.” That is why that same council urged all parents to do everything they could to send their children to Catholic schools.
Clearly, parents have the responsibility to provide for the education of their children, not just so that they may earn a living in the future, but so that they will be well formed as they make their way to heaven. Where will parents find that combination of intellectual and moral formation? It really takes a lot of sacrifice on parents’ parts to provide this for their children.
Some parents make great sacrifices to transport their children at a distance and forgo other things in order to pay for the tuition of their children in a Catholic school. Others engage in the amazing journey of providing home schooling for their offspring. The dedication and sacrifice involved in that enterprise is truly inspiring. Still other parents make use of our parish catechetical programs (which on average instruct and form our young people for 30 hours a year) and then make great efforts to supplement that parish work with additional formation at home. Parents are to be highly congratulated for fulfilling this solemn duty so admirably. You are trying to keep the mind and the heart of your child in union with the mind and heart of Christ.
In the Diocese of Lansing, we have our own duties. One is to make sure that all of us in this diocese see that the Catholic education of the next generation is the responsibility of us all. That is why every parish that does not have a school is being taxed a small amount to fund partial need-based scholarships to attend our Catholic schools. Another duty is to make sure that our schools are striving to become ever more Catholic, by seeking excellence in every arena and by becoming every day a community of disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Please pray for the ongoing daily reform of our Catholic schools and for the blessings of a Catholic education for all our young people.