A Reflection on Catholic Schools Week

This week, the Classic Learning Test celebrates Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. Dioceses and schools across the country observe the week in various ways throughout their community. Two of our staff members, Brittany Higdon and Ashley Brashear, have taught in parochial schools, and offered us reflections of their own on the nature and purpose of a Catholic education.

Yet as we celebrate, we are mindful that Catholic schools face many challenges—from practical difficulties with enrollment and school closures, to philosophical issues of Catholic identity and mission. Understanding that Catholic schools have made an invaluable contribution to American education, CLT seeks to ask: Do Catholic schools still have something unique and necessary to offer students and families? If so, what is it?

We believe that they do. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Catholic University of America, and gave an address to educators. He described three purposes of Catholic education: to help students know and have a relationship with Christ; to promote an academic culture rooted in truth; and to teach and promote a life of virtue.

Here at CLT, we want to take a deep look at what is unique about the mission and purpose of Catholic schools. What better way to do this than to hear from the men and women who are educators themselves? On our weekly podcast, Anchored, we recently spoke with Thomas Carroll, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, and we plan to revisit these ideas at Anchored shortly. Several of our guests have discussed the special importance of a deeply Catholic education, and we look forward to sharing more with you.

I think education has to do with helping students fall in love. And you can’t measure that, right? But falling in love is not simply a sentimental thing, it means being committed to the beautiful good and beautiful truth of humanity, of the world of everything. And what is beauty? Beauty is the overwhelming presence of the depth and meaning of things that wounds the human heart, so that you can long for the infinite.

Apolonio Latar, Theology Dept. Chair, St. Paul VI Catholic High School, Chantilly VA

Without a doubt, a school needs to have good teachers; but then there’s the question, what is a good teacher? A teacher has to have an understanding of where we’ve come from, and the Catholic tradition. This is why the Western tradition is so important, because that’s where we come from. It is a tradition that highlights what it means to be human.

Michele Houmis, High School Theology Teacher, St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Greenville SC

However, I think the main challenge for Catholic schools today is to see how our education is not just on the level of piety or religiosity, but that it’s an education that changes our capacity of looking at reality. And therefore it helps us to see faith in a rational way, and make it more approachable for the current generation.

Fr. Michele Benetti, Religion and Science Teacher, Bishop Fenwick High School, Peabody MA

We’re in America, and the legacy of Western civilization has played a huge role in the formation of this country’s culture. We need to look at it, we need to engage it, if we’re going to understand what it means to be in America. We need to consider, though, that America has become a home to people from all different backgrounds. How can we engage questions about truth? But if we’re truly Catholic—if we believe that the Incarnation touches on every culture, every time period—we can really understand where we are in America.

Stephen Adubato, Religion Teacher and Director of Gray Bee Ministry, St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Newark NJ

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