Column: Religion permeates the curriculum at Catholic schools

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.
Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools, Recently, a pastor told me about a conversation he overheard in the gathering space of the church after Sunday Mass. Several dads were talking about their children’s experiences as ninth-graders in our local Catholic high schools.

The pastor heard one dad say, “Well, when that report card comes, the only thing I’ll pay attention to is the religion grade. That’s what I pay tuition for.” The pastor was proud of his parishioner who understood the real value of our Catholic schools.

What both the pastor and I know — and thousands of parents also know — is that in a Catholic school, religion is not restricted to just religion class. For many years, teachers have been working diligently to infuse both Catholic instructional resources as well as Catholic intellectual tradition into all academic subjects. For example, at Bishop Miege High School, faculty from all the academic disciplines prepare lessons that intentionally use Catholic focus and thought. Teachers present these lessons to the principal, who each month chooses two lessons for staff to present to their colleagues and to the board of trustees. I have been so impressed by how teachers have embraced this concept and created beautiful lessons of our faith as they teach the core subject content.

This past year, we began an initiative to enhance the Catholicity of our co- and extracurricular activities. Next month, we will host a program for all coaches and activity moderators that will provide an opportunity for discussion about how to better use these aspects of the high school experience to both teach our faith to our students and witness it to others.

So many of our coaches and club moderators already are doing this, and I am looking forward to hearing them share all their ideas with their colleagues. What currently is being done ranges from team/club Bible study/prayer groups to creative practice gear imprinted with faithfilled mottos for the year (like Hayden’s cross-country teams’ “Dream Big; Work Hard; Trust God,” which was the students’ idea).

What does all of this mean for those dads who were discussing their children’s Catholic high schools? Well, the good news is that their tuition yields much more than religion class. Our faith is woven into every aspect of the school experience.

Additionally, these dads can be assured that, along with the faith, comes the commitment to academic excellence — as St. Thomas Aquinas High School’s National Blue Ribbon School Award demonstrates. If you want a Catholic school experience for your children, don’t let tuition be an obstacle. There are tuition assistance programs available. Contact your local principal — we want your kids in our schools!

¡Vaya con Dios!

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