Home is the first and primary school. Parents are the first and primary teachers. By the time children enter the doors of a school, substantial education and formation has already taken place. Children bring with them to school all that they have learned in the family home: language and basic vocabulary, behaviors and social skills, attitudes and values.

The role of the school is to build upon, complement and enhance, develop and nurture what has already been learned at home, especially from parents, in a child’s first few years of life. Parents trust schools to continue the process of educating their children, teaching about and introducing them to the wider world. “Trust” is the word that describes the relationship between parents and the schools they choose for their children.

 In those homes and families where the Catholic faith is present and active, trusting children to a Catholic school education and environment not only seems reasonable but preferable for them. While public schools are readily available everywhere and generally do a good job, the opportunity for children to attend a Catholic school requires parents to trust and choose a “different” educational experience for them – one that includes and fosters their growth in the Catholic faith of their Baptism; one that helps form and shape their developing world view, through a curriculum appropriate to their age and consistent with their Catholic faith; one that that teaches the difference between right and wrong and supports healthy interactions with peers; one that provides opportunities for prayer and the Sacraments and nurtures their relationship with God.

Catholic schools are a “package deal” that, in addition to deepening the Catholic faith of their students, strive for academic excellence across the curriculum. These are the things parents trust and choose when they trust and choose a Catholic school with the education of their children, a trust and a choice that requires their faith, commitment and sacrifice.

There is no question that the times and culture in which we live argue strongly – albeit unconvincingly in my opinion – against the teachings, practices and values of the Catholic Church. Catholic schools – precisely as Catholic – attempt to counter those arguments. They offer a clear alternative in the educational marketplace where, more and more, it seems, “anything goes” – all choices, values and opinions are considered equally valid; all truths are personal, relative, and defined by the moment and the subjective situation.  

Catholic schools do not embrace such points of view or other perspectives inconsistent with Catholic teachings. If parents prefer such perspectives and practices in the learning environment they seek for their children, they should not choose a Catholic school.

 At the end of the day, the concept of “truth in advertising” validates an upfront presentation of what Catholic schools consider themselves to be and what they have to offer – and what they do not. Catholic schools do not see their role and mission as “accommodating the culture” and its preferences. Rather, Catholic schools, like all Catholic institutions, seek to evangelize the culture with the preferences of the Gospel, consistent with the Catholic Church’s teachings.

Few things sadden me as much as when declining enrollments and insufficient resources render a Catholic school unsustainable, forcing a Catholic school to close. Parents considering a school for their children do have a choice.  I hope and pray they consider all that a Catholic school has to offer when making that choice.