Two Sundays ago we heard at Mass the Gospel reading of the call of the Apostles. From Saint John it was proclaimed, “The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” This same question can be asked of parents, educators and the community at large regarding the education of youth today. While there may be multiple answers to this question, it seems that “quality Catholic education” may be the best and most comprehensive response. Why? Well, there are at least five compelling reasons.
- Daily exposure to the Catholic faith is important to developing a strong religious foundation. This firm foundation is built on prayer, worship, community-building and service. According to Our Greatest and Best Inheritance: Catholic Schools and Parental Choice (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) “Catholic school students are more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain a Catholic identify as an adult and donate more to the Church.
- Students in Catholic school achieve post-secondary academic success. According to the National Catholic Educational Association ninety-nine percent (99%) of Catholic secondary school students graduate and eighty-eight percent (88%) go on to college. A study published in the Journal of Catholic Education finds that students who attended Catholic high schools had higher college GPAs, were more likely to graduate and were more likely to graduate with a STEM degree. This Catholic school advantage is wide-ranging, benefiting many subgroups of students, including non-white, low-income, urban and low-achieving students.
- Self-discipline, or discipleship, is developed daily in Catholic schools. Father Ronald Nuzzi notes in “The Top Ten Benefits of a Catholic School Education” that “Catholic schools promote self-discipline through clarity of moral vision that is based on the Gospel. Students are challenged to be Christ-like in word and action.” A report from the Fordham Institute finds Catholic school students are less likely to act out or be disruptive than those in other schools. They also exhibit more self-control. This remains true regardless of demographics.
- Civic engagement is greater among Catholic school graduates. Now, more than ever, students are needed who are engaged in their communities, participate in civic concerns, and hold the attitude that they indeed can make a better world. In the same article as above, Father Nuzzi reports that one study notes, “Catholic schools were ranked #1 in the percentage of graduates who actively participate in civic and community activities such as voting, volunteering, letter writing to legislators, Catholic Concerns Day, and donations to charity, not just for a tax write-off, but out of a sense of the requirements of justice.”
- Parents value the values of Catholic school education. Here is the number one reason parents enroll their children in Catholic schools. The CARA Institute at Georgetown University confirmed that “strong moral values” is the top reason parents choose to send their child to a Catholic school. Many of the parents who choose a Catholic school education want their child’s education at school to be an extension of what they are being taught at home. Hence, parents are critical partners in their child(ren)’s education.
Catholic schools provide a firm foundation in faith, academic excellence meeting a variety of learners, and a community that lives the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Catholic Schools Week celebrates the gifts of Catholic school education which benefit the student, the family, the church, and the world. As we think about the Lord’s question to his Apostles, when it comes to our youth, the question remains for families, parishioners, and benefactors, “What are you looking for?”
Louis P. De Angelo is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Wilmington.