January 28, 2007

Catholic Village

This week is Catholic Schools Week. I've been thinking a lot about Catholic education lately.

A few months ago, I overheard a conversation between two executives in my company. One of them is a Lutheran, I don't know what the religious convictions are of the other executive. The Lutheran was telling the other his kids were in a Catholic school in the South Metro. The other was surprised. The Lutheran said: "Oh, don't worry, its not really....THAT way"

I was so mad I left the breakroom.

What the Lutheran meant was: "Don't worry. My kids are not exposed to Catholicism at this Catholic school. Thus, its ok for me, a Lutheran, to escape the public school system by sending my kids to this "Catholic" school".

I went to Sunday Mass yesterday evening. My pastor does an excellent job of really building up our parish school. He helps raise money, he publicizes the events, he "talks" it up from the pulpit. He also does more then that. He had an excellent homily where he incorporated the value of an authentic Catholic education. Primary parenting is done at home, but sometimes parents need help which is where the school comes in.

Then, he made a statement that I thought was really profound: "Catholic schools should NOT be used as just an escape from the public school system."

Father is right. Yet, our Catholic schools are used as escapes from the public school system. A lot of people, not just my company executives, don't like their neighborhood public school so they send their non-Catholic kids to the neighborhood Catholic school. Righly, confident, in so many cases, that their kids will never be exposed to Catholic teachings.

As Catholics, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the appalling fact that many of our schools, don't teach our Faith at all or barely.

How many of us, bother to ask the teachers what is being taught in the school? Even if you don't have kids in the school. The quality, or lack thereof, of Catholic teaching affects us all.

Are all the kids in the school taught the same thing? Or are "outs" allowed for the non-Catholics? Do the non-Catholics get a recess when the teachings about Mary are being done? Do the non-Catholics get to show up an hour later then the Catholic kids because they should not have to go to Mass? I think that by allowing these "outs" for non-Catholic kids we are really missing a chance for evangelization and conversion. Not only of the kids, but also, the parents.

I think it is wrong that non-Catholics can attend our schools but expect that they will not learn our Faith. I would not expect my kids to be enrolled in a Jewish school and never be exposed to Jewish teachings. Or a Lutheran school.

Then there are the Catholic schools with Catholic kids who teach the "watered down", generic, feel-good, no demands, Catholicism. Sin is never mentioned. The necessity of Confession is too scary. How the 10 Commandments fit in to the Faith is never emphasized. What the Mass means? Forget it. The Real Presence-that's too hard to grasp. Never mind the Trinity. These scheools are in error too.

Children are not dumb. They are made dumb when people treat them like they can't learn. Somehow, my paternal Grandparents, who never even went to high school (in fact, my Grandfather never went to school past 4th grade), were capable of grasping the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith.

Furthermore, there is the lamentable reality that many of the teachers in our Catholic schools are not Catholic at all or they are non-practicing. I see lots of job advertisements in Catholic schools that just ask for a teacher with a "respect for Catholic teachings" or "a spiritual person". This is how pagans, like Gabriel Ashley Ross, get their feet in the doors of our local schools. "Hey, I'm spiritual. I may be a Wiccan, but I'm spiritual."

The solutions to these problems will not be easy. I think it would help, a lot, if more Catholic parents made sure, at home, what their kids are learning in Catholic school. I, also, think that if more of us in the Catholic Village-even those, like me, with no children-stepped up, we could make a difference.

"It takes a village to raise a child"-just about the only thing Hillary Clinton has ever said that I agree with.

I have been feeling a strong call lately to go back to school and get a teaching license. I was in Adoration on Thursday and it hit me like a thunderbolt. A lot of librarians also have teaching licenses so they can be librarians in school libraries. I've been praying on this and will continue to do so. I'll keep you posted.

If I did this I would definitely be taking the some kind of Oath of Fidelity-even if I'm not a Theology teacher. I just want it to be made perfectly clear that no child is going to hear something contrary to church teaching from me-even if we are just talking in the school library. I would also work hard to make sure blasphemous materials or material contrary to our Faith are kept out of the library or severely restricted (i.e. access only if parental permission).

Pondering and praying.....


Blogger Adoro Te Devote said...

I think you should do it!

January 28, 2007 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Adoro!

Our parish school is staffed with a large number of NON-Catholics. I don't get it...it's a CATHOLIC school. How are these teachers supposed to teach religion????????

January 28, 2007 4:56 PM  
Blogger Geometricus said...

You need to make a distinction between schools which have started in the last 10 years or so and school which started and had to endure the cultural hurricanes of the 1960's and 70's. There are a few schools in the metro area which were started intentionally in the last 5 years or so for the purpose of really being Catholic. The school where I teach (in the West metro) is such a school. We have about 30-40% non-Catholics but NO ONE can "opt out" of either mass or religion class, which is part the GPA. We have already had several converts in our first 5 years.

I'd like to think that our school, which has started so strong and has had early success, will be around 100 years from now still standing strong in the faith, but I know there may be cultural hurricanes in the future that will challenge its Catholic identity. God help us! Many of the schools of the kind you mentioned in your post watered down their Catholicism in a misguided attempt at ecumenism or God-knows-what. God save us from that!

In any case, we just built a beautiful new library for the high school which the faculty currently take turns staffing. We may soon need a full-time librarian. Many of our staff are do not have teaching licenses or (like me)once had them and allowed them to lapse because our board sees solid experience in the field and faithfulness to the mission of the school as more important than a piece of paper issued by the state.

If you would like to find out more email me at blackhorse161 at yahoo.

January 28, 2007 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathy - Great Post!

Our kids went to our parish school (South of the River) for four years, and we've always felt that there was a great deal of emphasis on social justice (not that there's anything wrong with that), and not enough teaching on the nuts and bolts of our Catholic faith. The school would focus on a 'person of the month,' and it was usually someone like Nelson Mandela, or Chief Joseph...not St. Tarcisius, or St. Martin de Porres.
My husband referred to it as 'Catholite-lite.' I taught the kids at home for three years, and they learned more about their Catholic faith then.

As a librarian (non-practicing at this time), I too, have felt the desire to become a teacher someday. I enjoyed teaching my children, especially English and American History (my undergraduate degrees are in these areas).

Good luck on your decision, and I'll keep you in my prayers.

January 29, 2007 7:00 AM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Wonderful post, Cathy! I'm going to link to it.

I have never heard of "Catholic Schools Week." But I was at Nativity of Our Lord in St Paul Sunday evening and the pastor, Father Christianson made a nice segue in his homily from Jesus teaching in his home synagogue in Nazareth and the Nativity K-7 school.

And then after the Communion, he had a 2nd grader and a 7th grader give short messages, telling about their schoolwork and thanking the parishioners and their parents for sending them there. I would bet that Nativity is pretty orthodox.

Getting that certificate is a great idea, Cathy! I doubt that it is that difficult.

January 29, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Geometricus: Excellent point and thanks for the reminder. You are correct, that schools that have just started in the last few years are making an effort at orthodoxy. God Bless Them!

January 29, 2007 10:14 AM  

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