Recognizing the value of Catholic schools Print
Our Catholic Schools
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 -- 12:00 AM

Our Catholic Schools by Michael LancasterMy wife and I live in a small village with a small Catholic parish and no Catholic school. Our children, however, all attend Catholic schools.

Of course, this means a lot of driving, which is a cost in both gas and hours spent in the car each week. Everyone else in our parish attends the local public school, which is within walking distance or not more than a five minute drive for most.

Regional Gatherings:
Catholic Schools Planning Process
  • Tuesday, Nov. 11 — St. Joseph Parish, Ft. Atkinson, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 11 — St. Mary Parish, Platteville, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 12 — Bishop O’Connor Center, Madison, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Even before gas prices skyrocketed this past summer, people often asked us why we send our children to Catholic schools instead of the local public school. The local public school has small class sizes, good test scores, and is small enough to maintain a sense of community. Besides, they ask, "Why would you pay tuition when our taxes are already so high?"

'We believe in Catholic schools'

The answer is simple. We believe in Catholic schools, not only for their academic rigor and the sense of discipline and responsibility that they help us instill in our children, but more importantly because it is only in Catholic schools that our children can receive a total education, in faith and academics.

Catholic school teachers address the whole child, mind, body, and spirit. In Catholic schools students are free to ask any question, and teachers are free to answer any question — about faith, God, existence, purpose, and the meaning of life.

Each Catholic school is a community where our children are free to openly talk about, learn about, and practice their faith.

In Catholic schools, students not only learn about their faith, but how it relates to science, math, social studies, history, and the very essence of being human.

In Catholic schools each child is viewed and respected as a child of God and taught to respect all people as children of God regardless of their differences. Students in Catholic schools learn to respect each other, to love each other, and to serve each other.

Catholic schools help parents teach and reinforce to our children the truth about their faith, the truth about who they are, and the truth about who God calls them to be and what He is calling them to do.

Finally, Catholic schools discipline the mind through academic rigor, preparing students for further studies by teaching them to think critically, analytically, and often.

Catholic schools not only teach morals and Christian values, but they teach students how to apply a moral lens to daily decisions. Students learn to know and love Christ and ask, "What would Jesus do?" In short, Catholic schools ground our students in faith and morals while providing an excellent academic education and training students in academic discipline.

True value of Catholic education

Having been the product of Catholic education and then having been a teacher and principal in public schools, I know well the true value of Catholic education. I was most blessed to have parents who sacrificed greatly so that my siblings and I could all attend Catholic schools.

Sure, the experience wasn't perfect, but neither was I. In the end, I graduated with more than just an excellent education. Through the lessons and examples of those who lived their faith daily, using their God given talents and teaching me to do the same, I graduated prepared for college with a firm sense of who and what I was. I had a sense of my place in this world and a sense of what God was calling me to do.

At the time, I had no idea of the great value of the gift of a Catholic education that my parents bought with their own sacrifices. It is a gift that I will always treasure, one so precious that it must be passed on to my own children.

These benefits of Catholic education, which are so necessary in our society today, are reflected in the mission statement for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison:

"Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison cultivate a love for Christ and His Church by inviting students, and the entire school community, to meet and know Jesus and embrace a loving God. Catholic schools seek to assist parents with excellent moral and academic formation for their children, developing the talents of all students and fostering a commitment to service, justice, and the sanctity of human life."

This mission forms the basis of all our Catholic schools and the work of the Steering Committee that is leading us through the current schools study and planning process.

As we proceed with planning for the future of Catholic schools, all of our work centers on the fulfillment of this mission with the purpose of creating a plan to ensure vibrant Catholic schools that are "available, affordable, and accessible" not only in the near term, but for generations to come so that the children and grandchildren of current students are ensured that they will have a quality Catholic school to attend.

Michael Lancaster is the superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Madison.