Around this time each year, Catholic schools across the country observe "Catholic Schools Week." This is a time for all of us involved in Catholic education-- clergy, administrators, teachers, parents, students-- to celebrate the unique history of Catholic schools, and their importance in today's world.
So . . . what exactly is so important about Catholic schools? According to the U.S. bishops, "Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold 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 our God is cultivated" (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 2005).
Although these are all great reasons for sending a child to Catholic school, I had an experience today that brought to light the "community" that Catholic schools create.
And, to tell you the truth, it's exactly what I want for my children.
Community in Christ
During my school's Open House today, I met three special people who were visiting the classrooms and chatting with the teachers. At first I thought they were aunts and an uncle of one of our students, since I didn't recognize them. As it turns out, all three were alumni of St. Pius V Catholic School from the late 60's and early 70's who had stopped by to visit during Open House.
Almost immediately upon meeting we began a walk down memory lane that involved fond memories of their time at my school. We talked about former teachers, principals, and friends-- the nuns who thwacked kids on the hands with rulers, the principal who was "so tall you could see his kneecaps through the upper-level windows," or the friends who'd gone on to do great things.
As they paged through books containing old class pictures, I couldn't help but feel such a great connection to them, even though I didn't attend St. Pius myself. The spirit of St. Pius V that they "soaked up" as students was still there, thirty years later when I became a teacher at St. Pius V.
Can any school create a sense of community, private or public? I suppose so. However, knowing what they'd learned at St. Pius V, and that it was the same as what I try to teach every day, means we have a connection through our Lord and Savior that goes beyond school history. It's this sense of community that encourages me and gives strength to my spirit.
I'm grateful for these honored alums who walked the campus of St. Pius V both then and today. I'm grateful for the lesson they taught me about community. I hope and pray that thirty years from now my son will be able to come back to St. Pius V and feel that same sense of community.
Happy Catholic Schools Week to all!