The spiritual component of a Catholic education

The spiritual component of a Catholic education

I didn’t go to Catholic school.

When my parents moved our family of 10 from South Philly to South Jersey in 1961, my older siblings and I were closed out of the only Catholic grade school in the area. I had the best public school education taxes could buy, just around the corner from my new home. I attended CCD two times a week into high school and made my sacraments. We went to church every Sunday, said grace at every meal, and said our prayers before bed.

I was Catholic and I knew it

My husband, Tom, says he had the best Catholic school education his dad could buy. Even though he lived in an affluent school district, he and his four siblings went to their local parish school and high school.

“Why are you spending so much money when they can go for free?” their neighbor would ask.

My husband was an altar server. His mother sewed altar linens for the church and cooked at the parish spaghetti dinners. Their family piled into the car to attend Mass together on Sunday.

He was Catholic and he knew it.

When it came time for our first child to enter kindergarten, we were at odds. Our shore community has excellent public schools — one right at the end of our block. The local Catholic school was about a mile away and struggling to stay open. Reluctantly I agreed to go to open house.

Tom was sold as soon as he saw the eighth grade girls in their uniforms and saddle shoes enthusiastically asking for signatures on a pro-life petition. I was more reserved, frowning at the age of the facility, the cement-blocked building. Then principal Sister Rosaline Walters recognized me as a parish lector and welcomed us into the school. On our walking tour I noticed other familiar faces from church: altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, lectors, in their roles as educators and students. I sensed the community, the warmth, and my heart softened. We registered our daughter for kindergarten, and three years later our son followed.

Concerned that my children would miss out on something, I still attended back-to-school night at the local public school. I was looking to find a substantial difference in the education my children would receive. From outstanding academics, to sports, music, theater, art, technology, clubs and after-school care, Blessed Sacrament offered it all.

The one difference was simple and obvious: My children were getting religion, not only at home, but in class and as a way of life every day.

The emphasis on prayer, discipline and self-control allowed them to focus on their studies without the distractions of the secular world. Daily schoolyard prayer, class liturgies, attending adoration, wearing uniforms, and having prayer partners taught them respect for the Lord and each other. The faith-based, value-centric Catholic education was a training ground for our children, our ambassadors for the future.

Our decision has since been reinforced by vocal coworkers and our children themselves.

“There’s a calmness about them. They are focused. There are less distractions. They respect one another. They help one another,” said a colleague with children in elementary school.

The parent of high schoolers added, “even if you are not Catholic, it’s about right and wrong and being proud to say this is right or this is wrong, without judging the person, but the act.”

Of her Catholic education, my daughter says, “The value of being taught to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated cannot be overstated. I was held accountable for my appearance, conduct and the work that I produced. …we were taught that presence mattered. I believe that was crucial to … a mental well-being that extended beyond the classroom.”

And then my son’s response, brief and to the point: “I learned to appreciate the little things, and patience. And of course, Mom, I will send my children to Catholic school.”

My continuing support for Catholic schools is driven by my personal exposure to them and the impact a values-based education had on my children — being taught in an environment that reminds students there is something bigger than they are. The spiritual component of a Catholic education enhances one’s ability to make a difference in ways large and small, to be an ambassador for the faith.

Rosemarie Maglietta is a business management consultant in Margate and an active member of Holy Trinity parish. Although her children graduated several years ago, she remains a volunteer for Catholic schools and was an integral member of the Bishop’s Commission on Catholic Schools in 2014 and is currently active with communication and branding efforts.

About Author