Written by Kathleen Powell
Why Catholic Schools? This is difficult to answer considering the variables between us. There are, however, a few compelling reasons we share in common. We can point to published studies which indicate the success of Catholic school students. The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education has kindly listed several research studies and outcomes on its website for us to consider. They highlight the many superlatives that we recognize intuitively, but could not prove without data. As well, The National Catholic Educational Association recently published the National Assessment of Educational Progress (known as our Nation’s Report Card) findings, uncovering more good news for Catholic Schools. The headline reports that “Catholic Schools Continue to Outpace Public Schools in National Assessments” and “The Nations Report Card confirms that Catholic schools consistently achieve academic excellence” again confirming what we might have already suspected. I am thankful that others are keeping track of our academic progress. This is good news for our mission. While our mission includes academic excellence, our dedication to the Gospel infuses everything we do. In the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” We strive daily for both/and, not either/or.
Recently I asked students to reflect upon why they attended SMMCS, and what was different about their education. One student wrote “I am in a Catholic School because I can learn to be the best person that God meant me to be.” Another stated, “It is different because you are in an amazing environment and get to learn about God during school. Also, you get to participate in Mass on Fridays.” Out of the forty-four students who responded thirty-six stated that the biggest difference for them, the reason they attended SMMCS, was that they were able to grow closer to God and better understand their faith. Two students stated that it was their parent’s choice for them to attend, but for the same reason, to grow in faith. Four students began their reflection with a comment about excellence in education, but also included God centered reflections later in their writing. Finally, two students reflected they attended SMMCS because their parents thought it was the best place for them without elaboration on reasoning. Uniforms and extra rules were mentioned, but only once. Statements included words and phrases like: well-rounded, kindness, everyone is so nice, trust God, worship God, I feel safe, I have fantastic friends, I get to pray every day, it helps me find my vocation, it helps me be a better person. Several students mentioned that attending Mass and Adoration on Friday is important to them. Saint Bonaventure said “If you learn everything except Christ, you learn nothing. If you learn nothing except Christ, you learn everything.” Why Catholic schools? Because by Saint Bonaventure’s standards, our students say they are learning everything.