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Column: The best gift a parent can give: a Catholic education

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

All 13 of us were seated around the Thanksgiving table this year, with the exception of the 71⁄2-month-old twins who were playing on the floor nearby. As we paused to recognize and appreciate what a gift it was to have everyone “home” and to bless our meal, our oldest son, Phil, and his siblings thanked Jim and me for all we did in raising them, especially for sending them to Catholic schools.

Our youngest son Adrian, the father of the twins, commented, “I think it has made an extraordinary impact on every aspect of my life. We’re already starting to save now so the girls can go to Catholic schools!”

Hearing those sentiments was very gratifying to me as both a mother and a Catholic school educator. Catholic schools are by no means perfect, but we are striving each day in every aspect of what we do to make our Catholic faith come alive in our school communities.

We do more than simply add a religion class to a public school schedule. We pray, we receive reconciliation and the Eucharist, and we study complex political, scientific, and social issues from a moral, faith-based perspective. We teach children to excel and to develop their gifts in thanksgiving to God, as in the parable of the talents. Catholic schools have the freedom to, as one school beautifully stated, “prepare minds for the future and souls for an eternity.”

What saddens me, though, is when the treasure of a Catholic school education is unaffordable or even unwanted. When Adrian commented that they were saving now, he was only half-joking. For some parents, Catholic school tuition can represent more than 25 percent of their income. Other parents may not realize how their spending could be reprioritized to make tuition affordable.

I am grateful to the Catholic Education Foundation in the archdiocese for providing financial assistance to greater numbers of families who desire a Catholic school education for their children. Each year, the CEF awards nearly $1 million in aid, but that amount is only a fraction of the need. In addition to providing tuition aid, I believe that we in Catholic schools must do a better job of communicating the critical role Catholic schools play in faith formation as well as in developing the gifts and talents of children. Catholic schools are, indeed, a wise investment in the future.

Please join me in supporting the Catholic Education Foundation and also in encouraging families to choose Catholic schools for their children. In my mind, a Catholic school education is the best gift a parent can give. I am glad my children agreed.

¡Vaya con Dios!

Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

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Kathy O'Hara

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