The Value of Catholic Education

Catholic Schools Still Have Value in Today’s World
by Sister Betty Werner, OP

High academic standards, orderly behavior and solid Christian values continue to be the standard trademarks of Catholic schools throughout the nation.  They provide the setting where teachers have the unique privilege of being able to educate the whole child, mind, body and spirit.

In support of the good work accomplished through Catholic schools in our society, a Task Force for the University of Notre Dame recently published Notre Dame’s renewed commitment to the future of Catholic education in the United States.  The University joined the Bishops in recognizing that Catholic schools are as important today as they have been in the past.

The Task Force acknowledged a number of challenges faced by Catholic schools today including: demographic shifts, the changing role of religion in the lives of American Catholics, increasing educational options that parents face for their children, the growing Latino population, attracting and forming faith-filled leaders, and financing schools effectively so they might be accessible to all families who choose them.

But in spite of these challenges, Notre Dame University concluded that there is no substitute for spending thirty-five hours each week in an educational environment permeated by faith and Gospel values.  The U.S. Bishops supported this finding in saying:

“Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the four-fold purpose of Christian education, namely, to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of God is cultivated.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium)

When Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Education, received the Catholic School Leadership Award at Fordham University in 2009 he stated:

“In today’s world – full of so much terrorism and hate; full of so many wars, conflicts, absurd struggles, which have not in the least been diminished by technical progress, but rather, on the contrary, made more severe – we need Catholic schools that teach respect toward each person; that teach love, forgiveness, reconciliation and dialogue.”

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI also recognized Catholic schools in our country as great gifts to our Church and to our nation.  Pope Benedict refered to Catholic education as “an outstanding apostolate of hope.”

In the Diocese of Pueblo, a rural diocese spread out over 50,000 square miles, we are fortunate to be gifted with four Catholic schools: Holy Family in Grand Junction, St. Columba in Durango, and St. Therese and St. John Neumann in Pueblo.  All four of these schools strive to instill in the lives of our youth the values so treasured by our Catholic Faith. 
We pray for their continued success, for the dedicated staff and parents who daily provide for their support, and for the nearly one thousand students who attend these schools.   Under the guidance of Bishop Isern, clergy, religious and lay leaders, it is our hope that together we can continue preparing the young people who attend these schools to be good citizens with a faith-filled commitment to our Church and society in today’s world.