His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, current Archbishop of New York, recently wrote a column in the Catholic newspaper of that archdiocese about the value of a Catholic school education compared to one found in other schools, public and private, in his state. For my column this week, I’d like to repeat his message to show why we at St. Vincent Ferrer value our parish school so highly, and why we think it’s been worth the wait to have the new addition and existing school renovations that are now being completed. With his permission, I give you a slightly edited version of his column.
“Sometimes I give in to temptations to discouragement as I wonder if our Catholic schools are worth all the blood, sweat, and tears they require. Some of the buildings need repair and modernization; enrollment in some places is down; only about 30 percent of our kids attend them; critics seem to multiply; and the costs keep going up. Are they worth it? Then I visit one of them, or meet a grateful alumnus, or attend a graduation ceremony, and shout out, “You bet they are!”
As Jesus returned to his Father in heaven, He gave His disciples one last mandate: “Go, teach all nations!” For 2,000 years His Church has heeded His ultimate command. And perhaps the most effective way we do that here is through our Catholic schools. We worry about a lot of problems in our society today: violence, drugs, broken families, disinterested citizens. Research tells us that graduates of Catholic schools are far less likely to get involved in drugs, crimes, or violence; enter into more lasting marriages with unified families; and are very involved as leaders in the community.
We also worry about our Church: people who do not know the faith, hardly ever pray, do not go to Sunday Mass; then there are problems with not enough priests and sisters, and not enough money or volunteering to keep our parishes and ministries thriving.
Guess what? Research again shows that those who have attended Catholic schools know their religion better, pray more often, and are more regular at Sunday Mass; not only that, they are more likely to become priests or sisters, and are more generous with sharing their time, talent, and treasure. Get it? You want to improve our society and our Church? Send your kids to Catholic schools!
Ok, but—I hate to say it—most parents don’t. The public schools in my district, they argue, are not bad, and, even better, they’re free! Why sacrifice to put my kids in a Catholic school and pay, in buildings that might not have all the “bells and whistles” of the public one?
We can point out that last year’s state test scores put our Catholic schools first among public, charter, and most expensive private ones. That alone, we would argue, makes them worth it. But, the most compelling reason to sacrifice to put our kids into a Catholic school came in a comment to me from a mom, an immigrant from Albania, whose son had just graduated from a Catholic school: “It was God’s mercy that brought me to America; it was God’s grace that has gotten me through here,” she told me in broken English. “I was not going to send my son to a school where God and faith was not part of his everyday learning.” An education without God is an education deficient.
Right now, some parents are wondering where to enroll their child for school next September. Put them in a school that is part of a 2,000-year success story: a Catholic school. There, they will learn not only how to get into college or get a good job. They’ll learn how to get to heaven. To be reminded of that is why I enjoy going to so many graduations!”
(slightly edited for brevity and originally found in the Catholic New York, www.cny.org).