by Kathy O’Hara
Dear friends of Catholic schools,
Since January, I have been assisting Matt Karr and the staff in the archdiocesan office of evangelization and catechesis with the evangelization listening sessions that have been held throughout the archdiocese.
It was my job to take notes as small groups discussed evangelization — the best practices, the challenges, and suggestions for improvement. It has been particularly rewarding to hear every region express the importance of Catholic schools in evangelization.
When we moved to the Midwest, our oldest child Philip was four years old. It never occurred to us that he might not be able to attend a Catholic school, but we learned that could be the case because of waiting lists in the schools. Fortunately, in the summer before his kindergarten year, we were told there was an opening, and “the rest is history,” as they say.
Back then, Jim and I did not compare Catholic and other schools. All that we were concerned about was the faith formation a Catholic school could assist us in providing our children. I realize that many of today’s parents are different.
Sometimes it saddens me when parents ask me about test scores, special programs, etc., but never about how we pass on the faith in schools. Perhaps they assume that is a given.
However, I am not sure parents fully understand the degree to which faith is interwoven in our schools and, perhaps more importantly, the degree to which it is absent in other schools.
As a good friend and Catholic school principal would say to inquiring parents as she led tours of her school: “Let me show you our differences.” Here are just a few: Other schools often have strong academics and subject area knowledge. However, Catholic schools have strong academics plus the parable of the talents (developing our God-given gifts to serve others and him) and all subjects infused with the faith and teachings of the church. Other schools may have anti-bullying programs and character education, but Catholic schools offer anti-bullying and character education plus teach the Beatitudes, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Ten Commandments. Other schools have counseling programs to help students cope with challenges — Catholic schools offer counseling plus prayer and faith, trust, and hope in the Lord.
Most schools in Kansas are good schools for what they do, but public schools, by law, are incomplete. Catholic schools have the freedom to address not only the academic and social development of students, but also the moral and spiritual development — all from the perspective of the Catholic faith. Quite simply, Catholic schools offer what is present in other schools, with the all-important plus of Jesus Christ. We do, indeed, evangelize!
¡Vaya con Dios!