Value of Catholic school education: This graduate wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars! Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 15, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

“I would not trade my Catholic education for a million dollars!” That’s what Ashley Hornung, soon to be a graduate of St. Peter Catholic School in Ashton, says in her reflection in the Graduation section published in this week’s Catholic Herald.

Ashley is one of this year’s Catholic school graduates in the Diocese of Madison who were asked to comment on what their Catholic school education means to them.

Learning about their faith is priceless

Ashley is right. That strong faith is indeed worth more than a million dollars. It helps these young people on the path to holiness and happiness in this life and the next — things that are priceless!

Ashley also said, “I feel that I am a stronger person because of my Catholic education. I will miss my Catholic school very much next year! The thing I will miss the most about St. Peter’s is the cozy Catholic environment. Everybody at St. Peter’s is so nice, and it reminds me of a family. I like the fact that I can talk so freely with everyone at St. Peter’s about my faith. My friends and my wonderful teacher will be missed the most!”

Most of the graduates mention the importance of learning about their faith at their Catholic schools. They say they have become stronger in their faith and will take that with them as they go on to the next level, whether it be middle school, high school, or college.

Pope speaks about importance of schools

Pope Francis recently emphasized the importance of schools as places where students learn the connection between truth, goodness, and beauty. As reported in a Catholic News Service article, the Holy Father told about 300,000 Italian students that he loved school as a boy, as a teacher, and as a bishop.

Meeting with the students May 10 in St. Peter’s Square,  the pope said he has never forgotten his first grade teacher. “I love school because that woman taught me to love it,” he said. “Going to school means opening your mind and heart to reality in all its richness and various dimensions. If one learns how to learn — this is the secret, learning to learn — this will stay with you forever.”

The pope, who taught high school literature and psychology as a young Jesuit in Argentina, warned teachers that their students would be able “to smell” it if a teacher lacked the enthusiasm to keep learning.

The pope said he also loves schools because “they educate us about truth, goodness, and beauty, which all go together. Education cannot be neutral, either it is positive or it is negative; it enriches or impoverishes; it helps the person grow or it suppresses or even corrupts them.”

Speaking ‘three languages’

A mature person will graduate, Pope Francis said, speaking “three languages: the language of the mind, the language of the heart, and the language of the hands,” making sure their actions are well thought out and are motivated by what is true, good, and beautiful.
Although all schools — public and private — could help students speak these “three languages,” I think Catholic schools have a special opportunity to teach the language of the mind, heart, and hands.

As a graduate of a Catholic elementary school and high school myself — and the parent of students who attended Catholic schools from grade school through college — I know that Catholic schools do an excellent job in preparing students academically, but also educating them in their faith and inculcating in them a desire for service to others.

Even though sending students to Catholic schools involves greater expense and parental involvement (which is probably a good thing), it certainly seems to be worth the cost and sacrifices parents make. Parents look forward to their children becoming well-adjusted and self-sufficient adults.

The fourth R

But beyond the academic and job successes, I think most Catholic parents hope their children will be morally and spiritually prepared for life, too. That’s where Catholic schools excel in providing opportunities for students to learn to pray, worship God, celebrate the sacraments, and serve others.

I’ve written before about the fact that Catholic schools educate students with four Rs: reading, writing, ’rithmetic, and religion. That fourth R might be the most important, as Ashley Hornung points out in her reflection.

As Catholic school graduates move on to the future, let’s hope they remember everything they’ve learned in all four Rs and put their knowledge to good use in bettering the world.

Congratulations graduates, parents, and Catholic schools for the great job you’re doing!