Impact of Catholic schools felt by Miss America and many other faith-filled graduates Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

It was so nice to hear the new Miss America talking about the impact of her Catholic school education on her life and the development of her faith.

“My Catholic education has been so important in reach my goals. It gave me my foundation for my faith,” Laura Kaeppeler said in an interview with the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. “I praise God in how he’s rewarded me.”

Puts God first in her life

We can be proud that the new Miss America is from Wisconsin and is a member of St. Therese Parish in Kenosha. She graduated from St. Therese Elementary School and St. Joseph High School, both Catholic schools in Kenosha. Her mother, Susan Kaeppeler, is a fourth grade teacher at St. Joseph Academy there.

In a visit to her mother’s school last October, the then Miss Wisconsin told students to put God first in their lives, to believe in themselves, and to never give up.  It seems as if Laura Kaeppeler has taken her own advice. She has put God first in her life and believed in herself, despite some challenges. One of them was the sentencing of her father to federal prison for a white-collar crime when she was a teenager.

As Miss Wisconsin, Laura’s platform issue was mentoring children of incarcerated parents, as the CNS story in this week’s Catholic Herald mentions. Laura developed a program called Circles of Support in Kenosha, which helps encourage positive decision-making and strengthen self-esteem in children of all ages.

Typical of Catholic school graduates

Laura Kaeppeler is a special young woman, but she is also typical of many graduates of Catholic schools. These alumni not only have an excellent academic background, but more importantly they have received formation in their faith and have learned the importance of serving others.

Catholic school graduates throughout our country exemplify the theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week observance, “Catholic Schools: Faith. Academics. Service.” The annual celebration begins this Sunday, Jan. 29, and continues until Sunday, Feb. 5.

It’s a time for us to recognize the importance of all of our Catholic schools and to reassert our support for them. It’s also a time to show our appreciation for our Catholic school principals, teachers, staff members, and volunteers who give so much of their energy and expertise to make our schools top-notch and produce outstanding graduates.

Catholic schools have impact on faith

I owe a debt of gratitude to those who educated me at Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and Aquinas High School in La Crosse. They instilled in me a love of learning as well as a strong foundation in my Catholic faith and an interest in serving others.

Catholic schools definitely have an impact on their students’ future lives, especially in regard to practice of their faith. Children who attend Catholic elementary schools are likelier to make First Communions and be confirmed, according to studies. Those who graduate from Catholic high schools are more apt to believe Church teachings, marry and raise their children in the faith, and play leadership roles in their parishes.

“There really is a guiding effect” of schools on Catholic identity, according to Mark Gray, director of Catholic polling at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), as reported in an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The impact of Catholic secondary schools on long-term faith is even greater. “Attending Catholic high school for at least three years significantly reduces the likelihood that one disaffiliates from Catholicism” in adulthood, a study by CARA found.

Why does attendance at a Catholic school make such a difference? “It’s a total immersion,” said Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association. Catholic schools reinforce students’ faith and worldview “all day, every day,” she said.

We need Catholic schools more than ever

We need Catholic schools more than ever today in a society where the impact of religious values is so important. We need Catholic school graduates who will share their God-given talents with our society and help bring God’s message of peace and love to our world.

Please support your local Catholic schools by making donations of your time, talent, and treasure. Let’s make sure Catholic schools are there for future Miss Americas and maybe even future presidents!