It is no secret that Catholic Schools are in a very serious economic struggle for survival. Many are closing. In the early 1960s there were 5.2 million children in over 13,000 Catholic Schools nationwide. In 1960, in New York City alone, there were 360,000 Students in Catholic Schools. Last year, nationwide, there were just over 2 million students, and over 6,000 schools have closed since 1970. The number continues to drop steeply. [1] Only bold and creative initiatives can save what we currently have, and instill a hope that our schools might even grow again.

The videos at the bottom of this post show two Catholic schools that are adjusting to the realities of current times in order to survive and grow. The first video is of the Don Bosco Cristo Rey Catholic High School, here in the Archdiocese of Washington. The School is an example of a bold and relatively new approach to making Catholic Education affordable and accessible to lower income families. The second video features St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD. They are featuring a classics based program in an economically challenged neighborhood, not far from the University of Maryland.

It is clear that such bold and fresh attempts are going to be increasingly necessary if Catholic Education is going to be available to more than just the upper economic classes.

There have been a number of trends which have negatively affected Catholic Schools in recent decades, ans these trends have both driven up costs and limited the number of those who can afford Catholic Schools:

  1. The decline in religious vocations of orders that traditionally staffed our schools. While it is true we could never (in justice) pay these orders the pennies to teach we once did, it remains true that the large numbers of religious that filled convents and priories created economies of scale that once permitted these orders to provide qualities teachers, in large numbers, at remarkably low costs. For, these religious were not raising families or owning homes. Their personal expenses were limited by a communal and simple life. Today, not only are there fewer numbers, but those who remain able to teach are having to support large numbers of retired religious, and it is simply not possible for them to receive the small salaries of the past.
  2. Hence the cost savings of the past, provided by ample and generous service by Religious Orders is largely gone. Lay people have taken their place, who, for obvious reasons need larger salaries and benefits in order to be able to afford to work in our schools. Those Religious who remain, also require substantial salaries for the reasons explained.
  3. Education itself costs more. In the past basic implements such as books, desks and chalkboards sufficed. Today innumerable other things and personnel are needed: computers, up to date software, Prometheus boards, physical education equipment, school counselors, nurses, special education experts, testing materials and compliance related expenses to meet accreditation standards, foreign language curricula to stay competitive, science labs, music programs, and so forth. The days of the three “Rs” are gone, and have been replaced by the days of the multivariate alphabet soup of modern education. Get out your check books.
  4. Buildings are aging. From the early 1900s through the early 1960s the Catholic Church built and built: schools, churches, convents, hospitals, orphanages, rectories, seminaries and on and on. These buildings have aged. The youngest of the buildings, from the building boom age, are 50 years old, most older. In the just the last two years I have spent almost $200,000 on my 1925 school building, in repairs and necessary renovations. That’s more than it cost to build it back in 1925. My parish is but one example. Other parishes have worse stories to tell. The cost of asbestos abatement 15 years ago utterly devastated many Catholic Parishes. Buildings, what a blessing, what a burden. Get out your check books!
  5. Birthrates have dropped in Catholic families. The number of Catholics coming to Mass has declined to 27%. And, though the number of people who say the are Catholic has increased from the 1950s, the actual number in our pews and schools has sharply decreased.  The resulting fact is that there are just less children knocking on the door.
  6. As costs go up, attendance decreases. Overhead is shared by fewer people. Economies of scale are lost. Schools begin to loose critical mass and the finances become downright impossible. Usually, after years of hemorrhaging money, they close. But before they close, get out your check books.
  7. Simply the fact that the Catholic Faith was taught in our schools was once enough reason for most parents to send their kids. But this is no longer the case. Surveys have shown for several decades that the teaching of the Catholic faith has dropped to 3 0r 4 on the list of why Catholics send their kids to our schools. Quality education and safe environment rank ahead. Frankly, handing on the faith is less important to many parents today than it once was. Further, many question whether we effectively teach the faith in our schools.

And so it is, we have become stuck in a cycle of increasing cost and tuition, declining attendance and an increasingly skewed state, wherein only the wealthy and upper middle class can afford Catholic Catholic education.

But, of course, running private schools isn’t really our fundamental mission.

Catholic schools in this country were originally founded to assure that the Catholic faith was handed on to Catholic children, and that they be protected from the largely Protestant influenced public schools. I DID attend public school and, as late as the late 1960s, we still read from the King James Bible and prayed the Protestant Lord’s Prayer every morning along with the pledge, all this done by the Principal over the school intercom. There were still, even at that late date, things in our history books that were blatantly anti-Catholic: (e.g. that the Puritans can to seek religious freedom from, among other scandalous things “popery”). Hence, the Catholic Schools were founded to propagate the Catholic faith among our children. Many argue today that our schools no longer do this effectively, but that is another blog post in itself. Be that said, Catholic Schools cannot work miracles in handing on the faith if families are not reinforcing the faith at home.

Another mission of the Catholic Schools has been social justice. Many students who could not get quality education from the state schools, found refuge and quality in Catholic Schools. In the evil days of “separate but equal,” the Catholic Schools were among the first to integrate. Even prior to that, many Catholic Schools were open in African American parishes that provided quality education for the children of those parishes. In more recent years, as the State-run schools, especially in inner cities, have become corrupt and seemingly irredeemable,  Catholic Schools provided a necessary shelter from the public schools and from the nightmare that they have largely become. This is part of the social justice aspect that Catholic Schools have often provided.

But, for the reasons stated, much of this is threatened as costs go out of sight. More than ever Catholic Schools are needed. For now, it is not the Protestant influence that is the problem, it is the pagan influence that has taken hold of many state (public) schools. Likewise, as public schools continue to get worse in many cities and poorer areas, Catholic alternatives are needed as never before. But in all areas, Catholic schools are closing in large numbers and quickly.

New visions are needed if Catholic Education is to have a future as anything but elite private schools for the rich.

The Don Bosco Cristo Rey Catholic High School proposes once such model. In it the students are sponsored by local businesses. The students engage in a kind of work-study program where they attend school on a scholarship from the business, and then work part time for that business in return. Thus, not only do they get a quality Catholic Education, but they also gain valuable work experience, and start their resume early. The school serves low income families. This year the 100% of the seniors have been accepted by colleges.

Clearly this model depends on a lot of connections to the local business community to work and may not be easily replicated on a large scale. But it IS one model. If we are going to keep Catholic education available, both as a matter of the faith and of social justice, we are going to have to work hard and be very creative to keep it affordable. The Don Bosco Cristo Rey School is a great example of that ingenuity and creativity necessary.

Other models will need to be tried as well, models that include niche marketing. Until recently Catholic Schools were largely all cut from the same cloth. In other words, they are almost all the same. But there may also be need to provide a variety of packages to the community to be sure our schools stand out. Perhaps some schools can become single-sex campuses. Others can focus on math, science, languages or the arts. Still others can do a “back to basics, no-frills” curriculum. Others, such as St. Jerome Academy, the second video in this post,  can offer a basis in classical education. In so doing these schools can broaden their appeal beyond the physical boundaries of the parish, and reach into the wider community. Some schools can also consider trying to connect with the home school movement so popular among many Catholic families today.

But it is clear that Catholic Schools are going to have to adapt to a very different economic reality if they hope to survive. They are also going to have to choose careful niches in order to attract students. Simply the fact of handing on the faith to children was once enough reason to fill Catholic Schools. Today, (sadly), that is not enough. More is needed to attract students. And creative economic solutions are necessary to keep the doors open to lower income families.

What are your thoughts? Why are Catholic Schools closing? What can be done to save them? What bold and creative initiatives have you seen?

71 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    I have a bold and creative idea for Catholic schools: Prayer groups!

  2. Nick O'dEmmus says:

    Let us pray for Catholic Education throughout the world. Handing on the faith is so important, both in the family and at school. Amen.

    • Eric Brown says:

      No amount of prayer will help your church evade the reality that if the faith of the people is removed, as it has because of Vatican II, then so will its visible expressions such as the Catholic school system. Your prayers are empty if they do not correspond to God’s will as revealed in the Catholic Faith rejected by your Vatican II denomination. For more information see the youtube video on Vatican II named Vatican II:Council of apostasy by the brothers of the most holy family monastery.

  3. Steve Kellmeyer says:

    Catholic Schools cannot work miracles in handing on the faith if families are not reinforcing the faith at home.”

    This is, of course, exactly backward.
    Families do NOT “reinforce the Faith.”
    Parents are primary catechists – they create the Faith in the children through their evangelization to their own children and the sacramental training they undertake of their own children.

    And make no mistake – the parents are the ones who are supposed to be doing the sacramental prep, NOT the schools, NOT the parish. Rite of Confirmation #3 expressly says that this is the parents’ responsibility, as does the CCC.

    Schools are merely supposed to reinforce what the parents do at home.

    The error expressed in this essay demonstrates the central reason why Catholic schools are failing: they violate subsidiarity by pretending to be the primary catechists instead of recognizing themselves as secondary to parents.

    Furthermore, as you noted in passing, they don’t pass on the Faith.
    I’ve written a whole book on this: “Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America.”

    Keep in mind that today’s parents are all products of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s parochial system (either parochial schools or CCD). They are contracepting and aborting at the same rate as the general population, they don’t value Catholic education and they refuse to send their children to Catholic schools because their personal experience with the Catholic schools was ultimately not positive.

    The Catholic schools are failing today because the Catholic schools already failed fifty years ago.
    And the schools failed fifty years ago because the Baltimore Plenary Council which established the schools violated basic Magisterial aspects describing how the schools should be set up.

    Although the bishops didn’t realize it, the schools were designed to fail.
    The parochial grade schools cannot survive contact with the new Internet mode of education – no grade school can, public or private. High schools are only immune for as long as colleges are immune, and colleges are in the midst of an enormous funding crisis.

    The whole system of education will be radically transformed within 30 years, and it won’t be based around brick-and-mortar school buildings. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at this problem, those schools are going away.

    • Alright, alright. But you know what I was saying about parents reinforcing faith. No need to be quite so argumentative, I think we agree on the point of parents being the primary educators of their children. And you know what I meant. I suppose I could be picky too and parse your sentence: Parents are primary catechists – they create the Faith in the children… This is exactly wrong, for it is NOT true that parents “create faith,” God does, by grace. But I know what you mean, so I won’t push it. :-)

    • Le Pelerin says:

      I’ve always thought it questionable to say parents are the primary religious educators of their children. If that were true in practice, wouldn’t every parish have some curriculum (religion books) for parents to teach their children? It’s non existant so what we have is the blind leading the blind.

      • Steve Kellmeyer says:

        Parishes don’t do adult formation.
        That’s why most parishes are falling apart.

        I pointed this out in reply to a commenter on my blog two years ago (see here.

        If we assume that most parishes have between about 3000 adults associated with it (and some parishes are MUCH bigger), then to educate those adults at an adult level in the Faith would take the equivalent of a community college at each parish.

        That’s what parishes USED TO HAVE back in the Middle Ages.
        All the schools associated with parishes and cathedrals were schools for ADULTS, not schools for children.

        But industrialization turned everything on its head.

        The idea that you should teach primarily children and ignore adults is a brand new one – it’s only as old as industrialization. Furthermore, that idea wasn’t developed in order to assist the family, it was developed to assist the factory.

        The children’s “warehouse” school was designed to (a) destroy any income the family might rely on that came from children and (b) warehouse the kids so the parents could be captured for the factory floor.

        While Catholic schools are ancient, the version of “school” as we know it is a purely modern invention that has NEVER been of any particular value to the Church.

        • Yes, very interesting insights here. In my own parish we do a lot more adult formation than average. Likewise in my Sunday school component I teach the parents while the kids are in class. We also do Bible Study and seminars. It makes sense that parents and adults should be the chief target of Parish educational outreach.

          • Bender says:

            We have a lot of adult formation in our parish too (even though the parents of those adults are supposed to be the primary religious educators). Practically every day or evening of the week there is some adult religious education function or devotional activity going on.

            • Robin says:

              We offer a variety of classes for adult formation as well. We require the parents to attend classes while the children are preparing for the Sacraments. We bring in solid Catholic apologists and other speakers throughout the year. I’m a convert – and while Bible study was an integral part of my protestant church life, I daresay we have more opportunities to study Scripture and Church teaching at our Catholic parish. I do understand however, that this is not the case in a lot of parishes. But I believe that is beginning to change, at least in my area of the country.

  4. Blake Helgoth says:

    Msgr.,
    It actually costs very little to run a Catholic school. I spend far less than any parochial school per child. The school is run in the home. That way, I cut out paying for the bureaucracy (administrators).
    Really, the reason that some do not send their children to a parochial school is that most parochial schools have bought into the modern notion of ‘schooling’ that runs counter to the goal of education. The model does not work, even if it is peppered with a little Catholicism. Some are beginning to realize this and have taken matters into their own hands.

    • Currently in DC, to run a “benchmark” Catholic school, i.e. one that meets diocesan and civil standards, and has about 250 students, costs 1.8 million per year. Less than state schools to be sure, but still increasingly beyond the reach of many parishes to pull off. Being able to collect the necessary $7500 from each student is also very difficult. While it is true that homeschooling a child is less expensive, many, for obvious reasons are not able to go that route.

      While it is true that many things been added to Catholic education that I don’t personally think are necessary, it is hard to draw the line clearly regarding what is essential and what not. My own preference is a back to basics approach that stresses the “Rs” It’s more important to me that kids come out being to speak, read and write English, than know Spanish, or to be able to master basic math, than do fancy art projects. TO the Rs we must add of course basic History and Science.

      Educators can always think of 10 other things that it is good or essential for kids to know, but if the basics are not mastered, the foundation is shaky.

  5. Steve Kellmeyer says:

    Oh, sorry to follow up to my own post, but you DO realize that this year, the Catholic school system officially becomes the SECOND-largest school system in the nation for the first time in a century?

    Homeschooling is, or will by the end of the year, be the largest educational system in the nation.
    By 2020, there will be more Catholic homeschool students than there are parochial school students.

    The train has left the station.
    It is already pulling into the new reality.
    How long will it take for people to notice?

  6. Anon in NY says:

    Monsignor, thank you for this article. It is more than just ecomonics that has led to a decline of Catholic schools. It is a decline of Catholic identity, in most, not all, schools. Last year, I pulled my children out of a Catholic school, and am now homeschooling. Yes, religion was taught, although, still very watered down. Very little has changed since the 70’s and 80’s. Parents openly dissent or question cerain moral teaching. Some will bluntly tell you that they are there because they don’t want to be in a public school. We’d try to teach values and morals at home and keep them away from certain secular influences ( cetain TV shows, certain pop stars or books) but that all went out the window when they went to school. When certain inappropriate for their age incidents occured, the administration said, oh well, kids will do this. Yes, but not at that age unless exposed through negative secular influences. To put it bluntly, once innocence is lost, it cannot be recovered. It is our job as parents to protect their innocence even when it means removing them from Catholic school.

    If the dioceses want to approach the decline in Catholic schools from a purely business/economic perspective or an academic one to compete with the public schools, they will continue to fail. A return to our faith and identity is needed. This needs to start with the bishops and with preaching from the pulpit on matters that people may not like, but are true. Most adults need to be catechized. Formal programs on a dioecesan level need to be started. If you think I’m over reacting, just look around at the dissent. Look at my state, where a catholic governor has made it a top priority to legalize same sex marriage and it probably will pass in the next few days. Where are the people of faith?

    Lastly, has anyone from the dioceses seriously contacted homeschoolers to see why we have chosen not to go the Catholic school route? Maybe, they are afraid of the answers.

    • Yes, your story is a very familiar one to me. I have heard the same things said by many who doubt that the faith is being effectively taught and see Catholic schools as more focused on being private schools than religious ones. Secular thinking and models predominate, as they see it. The expressed concerns are especially significant since it is more traditional Catholics who make the core of the group to which we appeal, since most other Catholics aren’t coming to Mass anyway. But for more traditional Catholics, Catholic schools do not have enough clarity and identity as you point out. Hence, our most natural clientele feel underserved by our schools.

  7. Matt R says:

    Great post father!
    In the 1990’s, I attended Catholic grade school and graduated from a Catholic high school at the end of that decade. The problem now is that Catholic schools have become alternative schools for the poor inner city students (at least in Cleveland, Ohio) because they essentially attend for free with vouchers. While this is a great evangelization tool, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the faith is being strongly taught to these kids. The other segment is wealthy suburban familes who live in good public school districts but see sending kids to Catholic school as something to brag about more than a faith-inspiring move. It is effectively the middle class who can no longer pay for their kids to attend these schools.

    The other huge issue is that many Catholics schools don’t really teach Catholicism. They teach “spirituality” and “doing the right thing”. I have 4 (soon 5) children. My older two are beginning school. Even though I could afford to send my kids to Catholic school, I live in a good public school district and am unimpressed by the parish schools in my area. Even with my own Catholic education, I am essentially a self-taught Catholic having grown up with an heavy interest in patristic texts and church history. My Catholic education in High School was a joke, to put it bluntly. One teacher routinely taught that the miracles in the New Testament never happened (he was one of those “miracle of caring and sharing” as an explanation for the loaves and fish. That’s just one of dozens of examples. Many of the parish schools in my area, in advertisments, don’t even mention the word “Catholic”. It’s almost as if they are embarrased by it.

    Sorry for the rant. I’m starting to feel like Fr. Z!

    • All points well said. It seems clear that, as these comments unfold that Catholic identity and the effective teaching of the true faith are huge factors in whether Catholic Schools will continue to appeal to the faithful or not.

      • Hanby says:

        St. Jerome Academy is the Way. The primary truth that must course through the veins of every Catholic school curriculum worthy of the name is that Catholic Christianity is philosophically, historically and culturally decisive. It is THE standard-bearer of the Uncaused Cause.

        Christ cannot ultimately be the center of students’ lives if He is not at the center of reason, history and existence and if He does not satisfy the longings implanted in them. The public-school-education-plus-religion-class model ends up reinforcing the impression that religion is just another “subject to take” that has little to do with reality. Overcoming the separation of faith and the society they encounter by showing how profoundly Christ and the Church have affected history and culture gives students something better to love that is truly counter-cultural and in the end is the only thing that can save them.

  8. Bruce Kreiner says:

    Msgr.,

    If you want to find a place where Catholic Schools are florishing, look to the Diocese of Wichita, KS. There every child is offerred a Catholic education from K thru 12 and Seminary free of charge. Of course this requires a “sacrafice” of the parents and the parish communities, but if they make the sacrafice their children and seminarians receive a free Catholic education. This model has been working for years even for the low income families. It continnues to grow every year. A good model for other Dioceses to look at.

    • Steve Kellmeyer says:

      Wichita isn’t emulated because Wichita’s model doesn’t work.

      Sure, you get free schools, but at the expense of EVERYTHING else.
      I did an analysis of this in the comments section of the blog post I wrote on Catholic education two years ago.

      Wichita’s model is directly contradictory to both Vatican and USCCB statements on Catholic education.
      ADULTS are supposed to be the primary focus of parish catechesis, not children.
      So says Rome, so say we all…

    • I think the Wichita model is based on tithing. A great idea but, I preach Biblical tithing at my parish and though the income is very good and the people are very faithful to it, we still couldn’t close the almost 1 million dollar gap that the school created and, as Steve points out, EVERY available penny went to the school that was hemorrhaging money. Many, if not most other things went underfunded, including building repairs which mount up terribly if unaddressed. We could not help the poor and adult Ed was also underfunded. The school became a huge money vacuum and at some point we had to say we can no longer afford this. All that, even with tithing. The budget of our school was 1.7 million. That required $7,200 per student even if fully enrolled at 250 (which we weren’t, more like 190-200). But tuition was $4500 (the market could bear no more) and the voucher students we had paid only that. The Archdiocese provided wonderful support for almost 10 years, but even those funds were eaten up at such a pace that things became unsustainable. At some point the finances became utterly impossible and six of our city schools (mine included) closed all at once. We did study the Wichita model but concluded we lacked the critical mass in some of our city parishes to employ the model, for many of our city parishes, once huge were now quite small.

  9. John Bequette says:

    We need a universal school voucher program where public funds are directed to the private school chosen by the parents. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that voucher programs were constitutional, but there is considerable resistance in state legislatures to such programs because people are convinced that we must continue to exclusively subsidize public schools.

    Here in Indiana we just passed a voucher program, but it has a catch: only students currently enrolled in public schools are eligible. So it does nothing to help families whose children currently attend Catholic schools.

    As Catholics, we need to organize and agitate very aggressively and relentlessly for a voucher program that enables every child to receive a Catholic education. As Frederick Douglas, the African-American abolitionist once said: “Agitate, agitate, agitate.”

    • Steve Kellmeyer says:

      I agree about the voucher program, and the need to agitate, but we should be agitating for direct diocesan support of homeschoolers, not Catholic schools.

      Catholic school parents famously complain that they are double-taxed – the state takes money for education, but they also pay for private education.

      Homeschoolers are TRIPLY taxed – the state takes money, the tithe I pay at church goes towards a subgroup of children whose Catholic school is being subsidized by the whole parish, and my children’s education still has to be paid for out of my pocket with no help from the parish or the state.

      Since homeschooling is MUCH better at passing on the Faith than Catholic school, the bishop really ought to be helping to subsidize my costs. $1000 per child would more than cover everything we need, and still be MUCH cheaper than running a Catholic school.

      In fact, financial assistance to families might allow more families to homeschool, and thereby pass on the Faith. So it’s time for bishops and priests to start thinking outside the “school” box and start putting money where they get the most bang for their buck.

      • Matt R says:

        Many parents can’t homeschool because of jobs, business, etc. Some parents don’t have the time. Not only that, many parents are ill prepared to tech their children, especially in matters of faith. In order to have effective homeschools, parents must be effectively taught the Faith first…that is a current failure of the hierarchy. Most catholic adults don’t know enough about their faith to teach it and most just don’t care enough to learn. I see your point, but out of the 30% of catholics who actively participate in Sunday mass, I would venture to say 3-5% of those could effectively teach and explain the faith to their kids. Based on the USCCB sources, there are about 11,000,000 Catholic children in the US between the ages of 5-17. If 5% of those could be effectively taught the faith by their parents, that’s little over 500,000. Out of those, how many can realistically be homeschooled?

      • Fair enough. But I don’t think everyone can home school. Most are simply not able to pull it off, whether its time or money or (frankly) smarts. There are other alternatives needed and I think you are a little too absolute in your dismissal of the need of Catholic Schools. Also, do we really have good data that children who are home schooled are better educated at the end of the process? I am most concerned about consistency, since some parents may do very well, others very poorly. Who is accountable in this sort of system to be sure that Children are properly educated and not burdened with a bad situation that disadvantages them from the start? For, not all parents are skilled at this despite their own impressions to the contrary. At many levels I support home schooling, but I do worry about quality control.

        • Steve Kellmeyer says:

          Monsignor,

          The quality control issue in the home is no different than the quality control issue in the schools. As you know, the people who get education degrees are uniformly the least qualified college grads with the lowest standardized test scores. The quality of teachers in Catholic school varies wildly, just as it does in public school. Most states lay no particular requirements on private school teachers yet private schools are almost always better at educating students than the heavily credentialed public school teachers.

          Oddly enough, there is no indication that the level of education achieved by the parent has any impact on the effectiveness of homeschooling.

          Catholic schools do 35% better than public schools
          Homeschoolers do 74% better than public schools

          Anecdotes prove very little, but I’ll throw one in anyway.

          Remember Selena Williams and her sister, the two world-class tennis pros?
          You know who coached them?
          Their dad.
          What was his level of expertise?
          He bought a bunch of tapes on tennis, watched them, then taught his girls to do what he saw done on the tapes.

          Monsignor, you aren’t likely to be more worried about the instruction of the children than the parents are.

          To use another example, lots of parents are concerned about the consistency (or lack thereof) in the way pastors run their parishes, but that lack of consistency between pastors within a diocese really isn’t their business. The parishioners have a duty to support the parish financially and let the bishop sort it out.

          Similarly, the bishop or priest may be concerned about the teaching consistency of the parents, but it really isn’t their business either. They can give the stipends and let the parents sort it out. Believe me, 95% of the time, the parents will care more than the pastors.

          If the pastors are really concerned, they can provide additional assistance (besides finances) to the parents, but mostly just letting the parents be parents, letting subsidiarity do its work, will be more than sufficient to provide outcomes at least as good as the Catholic schools do.

          • Blake Helgoth says:

            Msgr.,
            Some would say that it is better for a child to receive no education than to be ‘schooled.’

          • Elyse Wilson says:

            Bravo! It is a common misconception that parents have to have some special training in the faith to educate their children. As a homeschooler I can say that the BEST homeschool parents that I know are not “well educated”, but rather dedicated to their faith. (I have my Masters in Theology, and I often am humbled by what they accomplish.) These families are amazing; they go to daily Mass, read encyclicals and documents from Vatican II, practice their faith at home, and profoundly instill in their children a love for God and for the Church. Often they work with no support or even kind words from their bishop or pastor. Thank you, Steve, for putting the case so eloquently.

  10. Kevin J. Jones says:

    We should cultivate habits that help create Catholic neighborhoods around Catholic schools and churches.

    If you see a house for sale near a school, post its info to your Facebook or send it in an e-mail to friends. Be sure to note how convenient it would be for people who want to send their kids to the Catholic school.

    Moving to the immediate neighborhood cuts down on parents’ transportation costs and increases the volunteer base for the school/parish. It also helps keep the student population at “replacement level.”

    (Similarly, homeschoolers should try to have other homeschoolers move near them, perhaps to a place within walking distance of a church.)

    I was surprised to find that federal law bars the mention of churches and religious schools in housing ads. To do so is considered a sign of intent to discriminate, and realtors have to be careful about appearing to steer people towards certain neighborhoods based on religion.

    I think we should relax these laws. I’ve tried to interest groups like the Catholic League in reforming the law, but it’ll be tough to do.

    • Yes, in the city parishes especially the neighborhood component has largely disappeared. Many City parishes depend on commuters to stay alive. Many, such as my own “niche market” to attracted a wider based of parishioners than their local neighborhood currently can provide. I wish I could be optimistic about recreating Catholic neighborhoods. Demographic and economic trends are very strong and usually trump looking for ethnic or religious enclaves.

      • Kevin J. Jones says:

        Good points, but pessimistic ones.

        It was my hope to start a brainstorm of several small habits that, taken together, could boost the attendance or financial position of Catholic schools by a modest 5-10 percent. But if we’re at the point where the schools’ position needs to be boosted by 50 – 100 percent simply to survive, we do have our work cut out for us.

  11. FrH says:

    “Lastly, has anyone from the dioceses seriously contacted homeschoolers to see why we have chosen not to go the Catholic school route?”

    This is an excellent question. I have seen studies comparing parents who send their children to public schools with parents who send their children to Catholic schools. I have seen no such study with respect to homeschoolers. I don’t think that it’s necessary to speculate about why; I’d just like to see it done.

    • Good idea, Father. I hear a lot of anecdotal things, such as in these comments. But there is little formal study of this as far as I know.

    • Cara says:

      I too have had this issue come to my doorstep. We pulled our daughter out of our Catholic school because of a parent who’s grand idea it was that the school should teach her child to read, not the parent. Unfortunately, the more I asked questions to her and other parents, the more the truth of that statement rang clear.

      My pastor, previous administrator, and now the bishops refuse to ask the dissonant parents why they have left the school in the first place. Any lack luster attempt at why the local schools are hemorrhaging must be from a lack of marketing- house flags, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments. I applaud any attempts beyond the normal Marketing schemes.

      I’d flock to a parish wide education class. Perhaps the pulpit is a good way to start?

  12. Pamela says:

    I will be starting a new career teaching science (biology, chemistry, and possibly anatomy and physiology in the future) at a Catholic high school, so I hope I can ask you guys for some prayer!

    One thing that really excites me is to be in a position to help the students understand that faith and reason are not contradictory and in fact it is only logical to believe that faith and reason will never counter each other if we believe that God created all things, since they would then naturally point back to God.

    My new school is blessed to have the science department headed by a Dominican Sister of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. They’re requiring me to be Theology of the Body certified by the diocese and we plan on making the relationship between faith and science clear throughout the semester and as we build our science curriculum.

    While I had a fine science experience in my own Catholic high school growing up, I never felt like the faith was something truly integrated with the curriculum. I mean, my junior theology teacher was also our high school football coach (and more than a little towards the fundamentalist side) and the only thing I remember at all is learning the historo-critical method of Scripture interpretation, which isn’t all that useful on its own. Nearly everything I know about Catholicism has been self-taught through several years of amateur apologetics. So I am beyond excited to have a chance to share my faith with my students while also sharing my love of science.

    If you guys have some concrete ideas for how to convey those two things, I would be glad to hear it! I am very hopeful that this Catholic school will be an incredibly successful one, both because of its philosophy on learning and its commitment to real catechesis and formation of its students!

    • Steve Kellmeyer says:

      There are some good posters on the integration of science and faith at BestCatholicPosters.com

      There is one specifically designed for biology, another for chemistry.

  13. AveMaria says:

    Christ had nothing to offer but a message. But what a message: Salvation!

    And look at what came from that message in our Judeo-Christian culture! All with nothing more than a message,

    And so it seems we need to evaluate our message to young families about the true nature and value of a Catholic education. Evaluate and re-focus our message!

    Consider how secular colleges and universities have spun their message and have “convinced” families that, as it relates to the education of their children, the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate goal is a college or masters degree. The secular educational institutions have a message that convinces families to scrimp and save and sacrifice so Johnny and Jane can attend college. Much to their credit, these institutions have also then worked with the government to allow for extensive subsidized funding.

    Secular colleges? What a sad message to have proffered and what a very sad message to have adopted! But there is no competing message out there.

    Let me tell you what happened to us: Our children were in a local parish school which was “Catholic” in name only. Stunningly, we were then hit with a message that made clear what a true Catholic education was and what it was truly worth — both academically and spiritually. The message resounded like a blast from Gabriel’s trumpet. We could not ignore it.

    $30,000 a year later — $31,500 to be more exact — and we have moved our family 600 miles South specifically FOR the Catholic education we witnessed and we have them enrolled.

    Shocked yet? How about this: It is the best money we have ever spent. Our now one-car family, downsized our home, drives our single mini-van with 180,000 miles on it and we pay the full rack-rate at the school (we know many others are subsidized).

    But it is a sacrifice we are happy to make to get a truly Catholic education for our kids. Chances are very high that we won’t be able to contribute much — if anything — to our kid’s college education. They’ll, unfortunately, have to take on loans to make it there on their own.

    Yet, we have zero regrets. We know our kid’s are being exposed to a Catholic education here in Ave Maria, FL, which will shape their adulthood. While nothing will protect them fully, we believe the education they get here will give them an education much more likely to defend them against decisions that will lead them away from the original message; Salvation.

    Message made.

    Message heard.

    Money well-spent.

    • Blake Helgoth says:

      Um, Jesus came to offer more than a message. He came so that we could have grace, a share in the very life of the Trinity!

  14. Jim Hamel says:

    I was most interested about the comments on the Wichita Model. I lived there from 1988 to 1999 and attended St. Jude Parish and my oldest daughter attended grammar school at St. Jude.
    Have you ever read all the material from the Wichita Model? I have it all anytime you’d like to read it.
    It was never intended to be a free Catholic Education Program. It was designed by Bishop Eugene Gerber as a call to Discipleship! And it was targeting adults! And it was Eucharistic centered! There were approximately 15/20 different Parishes in the Diocese that had Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis. Quite a few were Perpetual Adoration. You have no idea how many times I stopped, after a bad day at work, or my normal scheduled hour weekly, to see and converse with My Lord. Bishop Gerber attributed Adoration in Wichita with much of the success of the call to Discipleship. As an example the year I left there were 25 home grown semanarians from the Wichita Diocese.
    While I was there St. Jude completed a $1,000,000 expansion of the school, funded by St. Jude parishioners and payed in full in seven years time. After I left St. Jude completed another $1,000,000 expansion.

    Where I worked in Wichita I was also a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and one thing I learned is: When you find a successful Model, whether work related or other, believe me it can be replicated!

    However I agree with most of the comments I’ve read. For a variety of reasons Catholic Schools as we knew them are rapidly going away!

  15. RMW says:

    As a long-time homeschooler, I agree w/ Msgr. Pope – not every family is capable for homeschooling for many reasons. Mr. Kellmeyer is a passionate speaker/author about the benefits of homeschooling but for many families (single parents esp.) it remains out of reach and money from the diocese would not help.

    I feel as many do that my reasons for homeschooling began w/ the lack of truly Catholic identity found in my local Catholic schools. From the pastor to each teacher they were more concerned about offending the non-Catholics who didn’t attend the parish than retaining the Catholic families who did.

    And the cost remains a huge stumbling block for large families such as mine (11 kids). However, all that being said, I have found homeschooling to be a huge benefit for my children so even if my local school improved in their religious identity and became affordable – I would have think carefully of sending my kids there FULL-TIME!

    I have talked to my pastor and the principal of the school about the possibility of attending part-time for certain classes (for which I would pay) but they felt it would be too disruptive or burdensome. In that the model of some classes w/ some students and other classes w/out or w/ others is reflected in every college I would like to see a Catholic school attempt it and see if it would both help the bottom line, improve the Catholic identity (yeast in the leaven so to speak) and assist homeschoolers. Just a thought.

  16. filiusdextris says:

    Father, with all due respect, the lament this post conveys sounds largely delusional. You can talk all about what people need, but the truth of the matter is that you don’t have the will of the people behind you. Until you do, you (and the Church at large) are destined for further setbacks. Ours is a secular world, sadly. When people want a true Catholic education, they will band together and make it work. Until then you’re forcing it on a community where it is not likely appreciated or wanted.

    A public secular school education, ideally taught and fostered, is very useful. The parents should supplement it, foundationally, with a prayerful way of life and passing on the Church teaching,Tradition, and traditions. Where this breaks down is where Catholic schools need to step in. How does this ideal break down? – when the ungodly secular influences (not the neutral ones) creep in (what kids see on t.v., false status symbols, teacher cynicism, etc.). That’s where a Catholic school can and should offer its own gorgeous lifegiving message. I aver that if a Catholic school simply substitutes its own competitive education variant over another, it has failed the purpose test. To have a reason to exist, the school must inflame holiness, esteeming it much higher than grades or knowledge. When it has to sacrifice holiness for the bottom line of staying open, it should close its doors and recommend the nearest public school or homeschool association, and then offer to teach the faithful (as mentioned above, adults too!) in religious education.

    I taught three years in Catholic schools. There was no reverence for the Blessed Eucharist. Almost all the teachers and students considered Mass attendance a burden. The teachers were wonderfully dedicated, but to education, not to holiness. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Committee meant more than the Catechism. The students’ shoes (status symbol) meant more than learning to develop a relationship with the Lord. It was secular, essentially.

    My wife and I homeschool our children since we think a Catholic education is too important to waste on the generic Catholic schools. We value our kids’ innocence too much to send them to Catholic schools. I rejoiced when John Paul II published his Ex Corde Ecclesia, but I don’t see that vision being discussed or fulfilled hardly anywhere.

    There are a few good, holy Catholic schools out there – God bless them! And I even hope the struggling quasi-secular ones can install some good values on the students. I just have my doubts at great success stories as the general rule.

    Pope Benedict said that the Church will likely be shrinking as it embarks on a purification process. We can’t change people’s minds for them – we can only preach the good message, and make the best of the situation we can, under God. So, I foresee more school closings, natural and not entirely unhealthy. Hopefully when hedonism starts to become even more rampant, people will turn back to the Catholic Church and its schools, and the prosperity of earlier years will return with a renewed and stronger purity. Let us pray!

    filiusdextris,
    Ave Maria School of Law student

    • Filiusdextris?? Are you really the son at the (Father’s) right? I thought Jesus had that spot taken. Or do you just mean that you are a right handed son? Or yet still do you mean that you are a son who is right? But then I suppose you would have used dignus or justus. Just askin

      There are surely some good points you make but I would avoid calling your interlocutors “delusional.” You don’t actually encourage most people to read further by such over the top rhetoric and with a dismissive tone. Without being delusional I do agree with many of your points.

      • filiusdextris says:

        I agree delusional is often inflammatory, though I fully meant it in its scientific sense – not seeing reality. I was willing to accept its inflammatory (but unintended) side-effect. Note, that I didn’t say your post was diliusional, which has a decent analysis, but rather that your lament was. You are yearning for something which is not going to happen until serious dynamics in the American church change. Asking people to open their wallets to fix the problem is inviting people to think that they too can stick their finger to plug a hole in the dike when the structural weaknesses are too great.

        As far as my name goes, you mostly have to blame my parents – in Hebrew, Ben = son, jamin = of the right. So ‘filiusdextris’ is just the Latinization of my birthname. No pretentiousness intended. Something to aspire to though.

  17. Janet says:

    Monsignor, very courageous of you to take on this topic!

    I started homeschooling when i could not enroll my oldest in our church’s school; he was 8th on the waiting list. By the time he was in 4th grade, slots were opening up, but we were doing quite well with the homeschooling. We were able to assist at Mass most weekdays, which I considered more important than anything we could possibly do with our Catholic curriculum. Now that I have two in high school, it is harder to get to Mass with the same frequency we did when the children were younger, but I would argue that placing Mass at the forefront of our day made our home schooling successful, not just academically.

    Sadly, that is not the way with our parish school. They go to Mass once a week, and the school day is not arranged around the daily Mass schedule. In most families, both parents are working to cover the tuition and fees, and will complain about the homework load. There is a tension between the parish and the school, in which the pastor has very little influence in the Catholic identity of the school, and the school wants to do the minimum to keep up the appearance of being Catholic. The “Blue Ribbon” designation was a big deal.

    When I talk with people who attended Catholic schools 40 or 50 years ago, they tell me that school started after Mass, and the older children would sing at funeral Masses, etc. However, many of them also like the modern liturgy, and resist the pastor’s efforts to have Latin Masses and traditional hymns.

    I agree with the comments that parents should be the primary educators of their children, particularly in the faith. Most parishes and Catholic schools do the sacramental preparation by grade level as a group, even though there might be a “pseudo-interview” to see if the child is adequately prepared. I find it hard to believe that ALL of the Catholic school students and public school students are ALWAYS prepared for First Eucharist in early May, and for Confirmation in December! When will the dioceses and pastors and parents and children be truthful to the Truth?

  18. Steve Kellmeyer says:

    Isn’t it interesting that nearly everyone responding here is homeschooling?

    It’s almost as if parents who have children in other forms of school don’t care enough to comment.
    How odd.

  19. Vijaya says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful post and equally thoughtful comments. I’m reading this thread with great interest since we are new to the faith and also new to the Catholic schools here in this country. So far, I’m happy with the way things are taught, and it has a very Catholic atmosphere. But we do a lot of Bible reading and reflection at home … Now that summer is almost here, I plan to take the kids to Daily Mass. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.

    Please pray for us as we discern whether we ought to move across the country (from WA to SC). The primary reason would be to live in a more conservative and religious environment.

  20. sam says:

    If you want to solve the problem, then remove Liberal-Modernist Catholic theology (including feminism) from the schools and religious orders, and concentrate on the Traditional Teachings of the Holy Catholic Church. Re-educate the religious (male and female), the priesthood, the bishops, and the laity in proper Catholic theology. In a short period of time this issue will disappear.

    I’m speaking as someone who is currently going through Catholic Theology formation (where destructive liberal and feminist teaching is occurring), and based on the instructions that I’ve received I understand why many people are turned off from vocations — it’s taking a lot of faith and magisterial book readings to keep me from abandoning my religious calling, and I’m not the only one amongst my fellow students who is feeling this way.

  21. Blake Helgoth says:

    Some have said that there are those that are not equipped to homeschool. While it is true that a small percentage are unable because of illness, or true financial hardship, most could if it was important to them. As for smarts, how adept does one need to be to teach K – 4th grade? Then, if your child has been taught to read, they can self educate with access to some good books. The idea that children must be taught everything is very modern and can be very harmful to a child’s confidence. Sure, they need someone to help them along the way and provide direction in what books to pursue, but they do not need to be taught 6 or 7 hrs. a day. Our culture expects to little from children and sequesters them from the very adults from whom they would learn to grow up for most of their day.

  22. Melanie says:

    I’m sure that there must be very obvious reasons that my suggestion wouldn’t work but here goes. I am using Seton Home Study School because we can’t afford Catholic School but we aren’t considered lower income by any standards. I have a masters in Speech Language Pathology that I am still paying for but obviously not using to acquire an income. I could be just like a nun. I would gladly teach full time in a Catholic School and am quite qualified to do so. I wouldn’t need an income; I don’t receive one now. But, I would need my children to attend Catholic School for a VERY nominal cost, no more than Seton Home Study, which is manageable for us. I can not believe that there are not many many women in very similar situations. I don’t mean to denigrate educators; I am one, but it’s NOT rocket science. In my area, Catholic School teachers do not receive even a discount on tuition, nor are there any significant discounts for siblings. It simply costs a small fortune to have your kids in Catholic School. I’m just thinking that I am a resource that will not be used in a Catholic School. I am left with the option of providing my own three children with a Catholic education, but I’d rather my children be part of a community of Catholic students. Again, this idea seems so obvious to me that I assume I am overlooking something just as obvious.

  23. Ruth Ann says:

    My nest is empty now, and I don’t have grandchildren as yet. Still, I feel that I have a stake in the future of Catholic schools.

    My parents, aunts and uncles, as well as my siblings, cousins, and I had Catholic primary and secondary educations. Some of us even attended Catholic Universities. But that was two, three, and four generations ago. Mostly it occurred before the Second Vatican Council initiatives were fully implemented. We were taught, by and large, by Catholic Sisters and/or Catholic Brothers, and Catholic priests. Very few teachers were laity. My impression of my Catholic school teachers was that they were deeply committed to the faith, and that they were, for the most part, excellent teachers. Discipline was strict, but generally kind, not mean. We learned our Christian doctrine and our prayers. We learned the lives of the saints. Devotions were promoted. Mass attendance was a given—daily Mass on school days—all school days. No one would miss Sunday Mass. We were supervised by the Sisters even on Sundays. We learned Bible stories and Bible history, but otherwise didn’t have much Biblical knowledge. But we sure knew the sacraments inside and out. There was academic rigor in our schools. We had fun, but there was a time and place for that, and it didn’t get out of hand.

    When our daughter attended Catholic schools in the 80s and 90s, I was unprepared for how they had changed. I think I was in denial, actually. Her schools were very good academically, but the religious part left a lot to be desired. I felt we could supplement at home, which we did. Overall, however, I felt disappointed.

    Honestly, I don’t know how to solve this problem. Homeschooling wouldn’t give children the same experience that my parents and I had, because part of it was the interaction with the Sisters, Brothers, and clergy, and parish life—at least in the elementary years.

    Maybe the answer is promoting vocations and supporting vocations, with the hope that many will get into Catholic education. Just this week a newly ordained priest, age 29, from our parish was home visiting his family. What a rarity! But it was a thrill to see him and talk with him. He belongs to a religious order, so he won’t be assigned to our diocese. He’s going to a parish with 7 priests, and Catholic school staffed with Sisters from the same order. Sounds a lot like the olden days to me.

    • Steve Kellmeyer says:

      Ruth Ann,

      Again, we see the common problem with Catholic schools: they schools create precisely the wrong understanding of how parents and their own children are meant to interact. Consider this statement:

      ” Her schools were very good academically, but the religious part left a lot to be desired. I felt we could supplement at home, which we did. Overall, however, I felt disappointed.”

      Parents don’t “supplement”.
      Parents are the primary catechists.
      Catholic schools are the “supplement.”
      But no one EVER calls them that.

      The Catholic school needs to die if ONLY because it creates this mindset that what parents do is “supplemental.” Even though this mindset is essentially heretical, I’ve heard bishops speak it.

      Or take this comment:

      “Homeschooling wouldn’t give children the same experience that my parents and I had, because part of it was the interaction with the Sisters, Brothers, and clergy, and parish life—at least in the elementary years.”

      Your experience isn’t coming back because Catholic schools didn’t create that experience. Rather, the schools benefited from the inertia of pre-Vatican II Catholic culture.

      If today’s parents wanted religious and priests in the “Catholic” schools, they would insist on it, and be willing to pay for it. They don’t and they aren’t.

      The only people who can bring vocations back are homeschoolers, because they are the only people interested in having Catholic religious and priests hanging out around their children. They are also the only people deeply interested in passing on the Catholic Faith.

      Most parents send their kids to Catholic schools in order to:
      (a) keep their children away from the public school riff-raff and/or
      (b) be the primary catechist for their children, because they aren’t interested in the job.

      Since they aren’t interested in the job of being primary catechist, they don’t much care how well the Catholic school performs the task. Their interest in the Faith is nominal – if it were more than nominal, most parents would be upset with most Catholic schools.

      Those who ARE upset with the local Catholic schools become homeschoolers precisely because they understand that the system isn’t going to change – there’s not enough interest.

  24. Ellen says:

    Monsignor:

    I think this is the point folks are trying to make:

    1) Catholic schools are in general no better in terms of academics than public schools. In some cases they are worse.

    2) Catholic schools are very expensive.

    3) Many if not most Catholic schools do a mediocre job of teaching the Faith and forming in the Faith.

    Why should I send my child to that school? And in particular why should I be guilted into spending thousands and thousands of dollars to send my child to that school?

    There are exceptions. But for the most part the Catholic school system in this country has evolved into a private-school system for the upper middle classes.

    You know…when the NCEA had Garrison Keillor has a keynoter last year…anyone who was on the fence about professional Catholic educators should have had all the evidence they needed to know where this bunch falls. Really.

    • Yes, I think you have summarized the remarks here well. Still I say, We are loosing something very precious, especially considering the paganism of the public schools. But, to be sure, we have to do a better job of teaching the faith if we’re going to be a potent alternative to the pagan public schools.

      • Steve Kellmeyer says:

        Monsignor, you’ve just expressed the illusion that an earlier writer was talking about.

        Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you actually MANAGED to get the school to teach the Faith better.
        That is, from 6th grade on up, the children were actively taught that divorce was wrong, contraception was a sin and abortion was the taking of human life. They were taught that homosexual activity was evil, that celibacy was the higher road to holiness, that prayer and Mass attendance and Confession were central to salvation.

        If it successfully did this, the school would collapse in a year.

        Non-Catholic parents aren’t interested in having their children taught this, so they would pull their kids.

        Most Catholic parents are actively contracepting, many are divorced and remarried without benefit of annulment and most only attend Mass on Christmas and Easter if that.

        If the school actually managed to get the students to BELIEVE these things, the school would be turning the children against their own parents. The parents would realize they are paying tens of thousands a year to have the school turn their kids into anti-parent machines, their children would be constantly questioning parental lifestyle choices.

        Ultimately, adults don’t like it when children question adult authority.

        The schools watered down their curricula precisely BECAUSE it was the only way to attract parents (and therefore students) and thereby keep their doors open.

        YOU CAN’T FIX the schools without fixing the parents’ understanding first.
        The travesty that is today’s Catholic schools are a CONSEQUENCE of the failure to do adult education.

        Catholic schools will die precisely because the people running them think they can fix the “school’s” problems.

        The Catholic schools cannot be saved.
        All you can do is slow down their dissolution, and that not by much.
        Like many extinct religious orders of the past, the Catholic schools tried to do their bit, they failed, and they disappear.

  25. Malcolm Coate says:

    thanks for kicking off the discussion. Let me add a few points, Catholic schools can be subdivided into three categories; Mission, Community, and Prep. The Mission schools with thrive as long as someone pays the bills. Otherwise, they close. It’s all about fundraising. Prep schools will do fine. Private education is crucial to allow upper class families to live in “island” neighborhoods within broader communities with poor public schools. Folks know where these schools are (and the families buy their houses at a relative discount compared to equally attractive neighborhoods with good public schools.)

    Community schools represent the historical core of Catholic education. As these schools move from parish-based to regional-based, it is far from clear that they can maintain their community culture. Possibly, a large base in a core parish will be necessary. The success or failure of this style of school should be closely studied. A few suggestions (1) the closer the parishes are to each other, the better and the closer each family is to the campus the better, thus care should be taken in organizing the regional schools. (2) while this is more of a guess, than a prediction, the more homogeneous the target community is with respect to income (not race), the more successful the school is likely to be. To the extent the families share a similar educational culture, the more likely that they can agree on the organization of school. (3) the supporting parishes should commit to full enrollment pricing, making up for the lack of students with parish funds. (4) the school should be efficient. I don’t know if your community matches public school salaries, but $1.8 million for a school with 9 grades at an average of 27.7 students seems high. Does that include the cost of the buildings? Can those be covered by the parish? (5) Strong Pastors, broadly respected in their communities and a well respected principal are necessary. The Pastors should make it clear they support Catholic education with an investment in parish funds. For example, the parish can finance a multiple student discount to help our larger families afford multiple tuitions.

    Note my comments match the Diocese recommendation of full cost tuition, however, I’ve suggested the tuition should be set based on full enrollment. This will reduce resources for financial aide, but as you noted $7,500 a child is a hard sell. That number seems just below in-state college tuition and is probably above the cost of community college. Is $7,500 reasonable in a community school, when the local public school is free? And can it continue to increase above the rate of inflation, year after year. If the parishes can’t afford the schools, then I think your readers ought to discuss Plan B. (OK, maybe plan C, but I hope everyone understands that home schooling does not scale. You need a special type of parent to home school.)

  26. Sam F. says:

    I’ve gone to Catholic schools all my life; I went to the preschool at my local parish, I went to a different parochial school for kindergarten through eighth grade, and I just graduated from a Jesuit high school. Like everyone reading this, I think that Catholic schooling is very important, but so far I’ve had a relatively negative experience for probably one major reason: the faith isn’t handed down really at all. It wasn’t until I joined a strong high school youth group that I really discovered my faith. In fact, I’ll be studying Theology and Catechetics with a concentration in youth ministry next fall at Franciscan University. (Prayers please!!)

    From my experience, none of my peers (with the exception of a small few whom I call my close friends) took theology class seriously, and the teachers knew that and went along with it. They didn’t seem to think much about it either. The theology teachers!

    All I know is that to truly revamp our Catholic school system, we truly need strong, unashamed, bold Catholics to be teaching all (or at least the theology) classes at Catholic schools. On top of that, we need more men and women to answer the call to religious life. All Catholics should be open to the call.

    Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton, Ignatius of Loyola, and Francis of Assisi, PRAY FOR US!

  27. SK Trynosky Sr says:

    Pardon my coming in late but I was just introduced to the site.

    I see the same arguments going on here that I see in conservative/libertarian blog posts. People should do this and they should do that and parents should and the schools shouldn’t be substituting for the parents and people have to take personal responsibility. Well folks, they don’t and probably never will. I wish that we lived in an “Ideal” world but we do not and are not likely to do so either. We live in a “Real” world and that is indeed a messy place. When it comes to a moral education, parents tend to punt. They themselves, in the majority of cases, are so unsure of themselves that they don’t take a stand on anything and as mentioned before are on par with the society in divorcing, aborting and contracepting. They are also just fine with fornicating and sodomy in most cases. After all, who are WE to judge?

    Perhaps people should ask why those of us with kids (4) and and an education ourselves have chosen to send our children to a Catholic School. I will be the first to admit my primary reason was the “quality” of the education. I do however take exception to some of the things written above. Part of MY definition of quality included moral education or education in morals. I never have considered that excluded from the term “quality” nor deserving of a separate category. There was a time when God forbid, public schools actually took on that role too. That was long ago and before a woman known as Madeline Murray O’Hare, the ACLU, and the invention of the bogus Church/State separation .

    We are in a bind today. There are too many parishes where the pastors want no part of a school. There are too many dioceses where they see ex-Catholic Schools as an ideal place to rent out to governments like New York City for “Charter Academies”. My son, an engineer, was involved in the de-Christianization of some of them a few years back. Let us all not forget too where the rainy day fund went in settling up the lawsuits.

    Christianity and particularly Catholicism are under no less virulent attack today then they were 110 years ago. The main difference now is that we are not under attack by other Christian-Protestant sects since by and large, they are history. Now it is the secular Progressive left who wants to destroy all vestiges of morality which do not fit into their definition although God knows what that is.

    Since the ’60’s, since Vatican II, we have watered down our message. I am an early boomer, born in 1946. I cannot say that many of my friends who have fallen away or become outright hostile to the Church all got it from Vatican II. The Post WW2 culture and the cynicism which was the result of the two great bloodbaths of the 20th Century not to mention that big lurking god that failed called Communism, sure helped. People see the old solutions as not working. No matter what they were taught or apparently how, they somehow came up with the idea that they were totally capable of making all decisions by themselves and those decisions were just as valid, if not more so as decisions based on 6,000 years of human philosophic thought and 2,000 years of Catholic Theological thought. . They have been led along by a society that creates no absolutes of right or wrong and lives for the day only.

    I am located not too far, here in the Northeast part of NJ, from two very successful Christian Fundamentalist Academies which have waiting lists. The sacrifice to keep them open is every bit as serious and expensive as are Catholic Schools and yet they thrive while we keep closing. Those parents see a need for a Christian education as being an integral part of their children s lives. Have we, as Catholics become so jaded, so in love with the popular culture that we just don’t care anymore?

  28. Shari says:

    “Catholic schools can be subdivided into three categories; Mission, Community, and Prep. ”

    Exactly. Before deciding how to fund the Catholic schools one needs to decide what their purpose is, and whether funding the Catholic schools is good stewardship.

    If Mission is the purpose, is funding a private Catholic education for possibly 10% of the kids in the parish (the wealthier and Anglo subpopulation) better than funding afterschool tutoring/religious ed programs for the majority, funding homeless shelters, free health clinics etc?.

    If Community is the purpose, why is the school community so different from the Parish community as a whole? The school community (which usually is reflected in the administration) is usually 95% white and upper middle class, while the Parish community is often 50+ % Hispanic drawn from all classes, with poorer classes more heavily represented.

    If Prep is the purpose, why are working class Catholics, hispanic immigrants, and other folk being asked to fund college prep for wealthy elites, when their own children can’t afford to attend?

    For myself, I spent two years in Catholic schools (as an Asian) and found the culture hostile to students who were neither white nor middle class. (The community thing is a two edged sword that encourages and affirms the “ingroup” and does the opposite to the out group). My memories of Catholic school was of eating alone while reading at table for 2 years. During hockey or basketball practice I spent the entire time running up and down the field in my wing position, never ever being passed the ball. I found Catholic academics adequate, but not as good as in the public school that I came from (which was unusually good in my neighborhood but also had a lot of violence at the time). I was eventually sent to an elite private school where I found greater community and had a superior secular education, though it is true that nobody bothered to teach me about God. I later found Him when I was much older in a Protestant church, though I eventually returned to the Catholic church. I also ended up being an extremely good reader and lover of books and became a lover of individual sports (fencing and track) where I didn’t need anybody to pass me the ball.

    After college, medical school, and residency I found my way back to church, where I continue to attend faithfully, weekly, and where I do (as a matter of fact) tithe. Both my kids were adopted from Latin American countries. The oldest spent 3 years in Catholic schools and her experience was no better than mine. If you are not white and middle class, you are better off in either an elite private school, in homeschool, or in public school. (We eventually had a combination of private schools and homeschooling and sent her off to college early). She’s doing okay, however her experiences convinced me not to send my youngest to Catholic schools. My youngest I did not trust to the Catholic schools. She attended public schools and then went to elite private schools. Since aging out of her private school she is now in a public charter school. Next year she will be in 9th grade and in calculus (though we are having her skip ahead so she will be in 10 grade). She attends PSR “edge” programs but not the parish school.

    Elite private schools care only about excellence. If you are a good student, you will fit in. Catholic schools care about conformity. That leads to community if you are the “right sort” and lack of community if you are not. It also leads to mediocrity, and most Catholic schools are inferior to the best private schools for this reason. Further Catholic schools are hostile to the poor, the immigrant and the different. Folks on this board remember their schools fondly because in previous years the Catholic church was a much less diverse organization and I would be willing to bet large amounts that 90% of the folks posting here are Anglo. Their experiences would have been very different from mine.

    I think that the Catholic schools should be permitted to close. It is poor stewardship to support them instead of supporting other more worthy ministries. It would be more useful to teach religion by organizing before school and after school Catholic tutoring/religious ed aftercare programs. That would be a real blessing to the working poor, including Hispanics who are often the MAJORITY of Catholic parishes, who are largely excluded from Catholic schools, as these schools cherry pick, and will not accept nonEnglish speaking students or students with academic or behavioral differences. As they are currently structured, Catholic schools are apostolates to the affluent. I think it is immoral that they are usually the largest “ministry” of most parishes. While I do tithe, I do this for Jesus and because my sojourn in Protestant churches taught me to tithe as a religious discipline (like saying the rosary) not as a means of supporting the church. I would tithe with a more cheerful heart if I did not feel that my monies were being wasted on the parish school.

    • Patrick says:

      Hi Shari,
      Thank you for your well written post. I’m writing my thesis on Catholic schools with the main question being: Are Catholic Schools still necessary? From your post it looks like they are not because they only support a small subset of the general population and an equally small population of the Catholic community. However I would like to hear your opinion on Cristo Ray type schools mentioned above in the article. These schools specifically target the low-income and often have a large number of minority students. Another question I have is why did you feel you found a more accepting community at your “elite private school” where I assume (I know dangerous) that many of the students were also white and upper (middle) class. Finally in your last paragraph you mentioned the Catholic Church should support “other more worthy ministries.” If you don’t mind could you explain more about these ministries? I ask because I believe teaching social justice type issues and illustrating the plight of the poor to students at young age will help them be more open to helping others later on in life and maybe bring that philosophy to their parents (if the parents don’t already share a common vision for social justice type issues). You can either respond to this post here or if you prefer email me at pcololol@gmail.com
      Thank you,
      Pat

  29. Kathleen says:

    Why not take the Diocese of Wichita’s model where student education is funded through a combination of parishioner tithing, tuition payments for non-parishioners, and private donations. (NO TUITION for parishioners) The schools are growing, those attending Mass are growing, numbers entering the priesthood are growing. Those that can afford tuition can then tith fully to the parish and it is tax deductable. A model that is strenghtening the faith at all levels of the family. It is much easier to miss CDD here, there, a year or two… Much harder to miss a school day. I’m sorry for those who felt there school did not provide them with the foundation or support you expected. My schooling and that of my children is outstanding. The ability to pray openly throughout the day is priceless. I believe people dont envision the difference of being emersed in faith all day. If you gave them the opportunity through free catholic education.. require Mass attendance to recieve the discount… We can teach these children who may get a mixed message at home the true faith. Through the school our youth are taught stewardship – daily, consistanly. I see the public school children exposed to fighting and other immoral behavior. I don’t want that for my children. I don’t want that for any of our children. Lets do some test case schools. Our children and schools are worth saving.

  30. Jose says:

    Activists who pounce on public schools with culture counter to Church teachings are EXPONENTIALLY more dangerous to the faith than Protestants ever were.

    They know conditioning the mind of the youth is the most effective way to have their side prevail. So, when Monsignor Pope to say it’s not their fundamental reason to educate as part of the mission it’s unsettling to hear. With all respect…the liberal, anti-Christian crowd gets it–go after the kids in school. Instead, we let the price run up, we chase our few children into public schools, and we continue providing light catechism on Sundays.

    The thing has collapsed. That’s why many parents have taken things into their own hands and founded their OWN Catholic schools since the hierarchy who is here to pastor us have abandoned us. Many of these schools are authentic, loyal to Church teachings and successfully growing as they are blessed for their courageous risk and effort.

  31. Shari says:

    Hi Patrick.

    Sorry to take so long. I didn’t return to this blog until today.

    I can’t comment on the Cristo Ray schools. Nor can I comment on the Witchita tithing model, though I note that I did have eperience with catholic schools in another state which supposedly were open to all and were funded by a consortium of local parishes. Those schools, I found, were quick to expel not just “trouble makers” but anybody who would bring down their scores (i.e. anybody behind AKA the folks who might actually need them). I actually thought they were rather worse than the Catholic schools I remembered because there was no pretence in the teachers minds that it might be necessary to try to keep students in the system since their salaries didn’t depend on student numbers. I honestly thought they managed to combine some of the worst features of the public schools (the union mentality) with the worst features of the private ones (“we only help those who don’t need us, and you can’t say anything bad about us because teaching in a catholic school proves our piety.”)

    As to why I found a more accepting community at my “elite private school” where (it is true) most of the students were also white and upper (middle) class, suffice it to say, that the snobbery of the wealthy differs from the snobbery of the mediocre. The wealthy have always valued excellence, wherever they might find it (whether in art, music, scholarship or mocha lattes). The mediocre value conformity. Indeed, the more mediocre people are, the more hostile they are to excellence. This is not a problem that is unique to catholic schools or culture. This is a problem with mediocrity in general. In general the best medical or surgical residency programs (Johns Hopkins and Harvard) take folks from all over the world. The worst ones are worried about “what will our picture look like if we have ‘too many foreign medical graduates.'”

    I do think that when the nuns ran the schools they might well have been better (everybody tells me how wonderful they were, so I must assume that was the case). However the nuns of the 1950s were the folks who go to professional school nowadays. The catholic school teachers of today in general, do not appear to be of the same caliber. This is not to claim that intellectual snobbery is an improvement over tribal snobbery. They are both sins. However I think we can agree that if a goal is excellence in learning, intellectual snobbery is more likely to lead you there than a snobbery based on class/race or other tribal distinctions.

    Finally in your last paragraph you mentioned the Catholic Church should support “other more worthy ministries.” If you don’t mind could you explain more about these ministries?

    I think afterschool tutoring would be a great ministry which could incorporate religious teaching. I also think that a jobs program, combined with plain old daycare for folks who need a safe babysitter so they can work would be a great ministry. So would helping folks get their GEDs, visiting folks in prison, helping folks who have been incarcerated get back into the regular world. Gosh the sky’s the limit!

  32. Shari says:

    Regarding “other more worthy ministries” such as daycare for the working poor, adult education for those who lack their GEDs, safe houses for those transitioning back from drugs or jail, these would easily make use of the nice parish buildings vacated by the emptying schools.

    However, obviously this would also involve Catholics being involved with much less agreable folks than upper middle class white school kids and their parents. However unlike the current Catholic schools this actually WOULD be recognizable as a “ministry” as distinct from the rather comfortable work in pleasant surroundings with “the better sort of people” that work in Catholic schools currently presents.

    Mind you, I DO recognize that back around the turn of the century, catholic schools did provide valuble services to their parish children. However back then, universal free public schools did not exist, and what schools were available tended to trash Catholics anyway. Catholic parishes back then had a sizable population of Irish, and other uneducated poor immigrants, and I do agree that the nuns did them a great service in civilizing and educating them, at starvation wages.

    But that isn’t catholic schools today. If catholic schools were to serve the same function today, they would focus on Spanish speaking illegal immigrants (please see my earlier post). Actually, since it is getting harder for illegal immigrants to send their kids to public school in many states, if the Catholic church were to return to her roots and focus on such children, I would be the first to say that they provided a valuble ministry.

    • SK Trynosky Sr. says:

      OK, late to the party as usual.

      You seem to have had an unusual experience. Back in the ’50’s I went to a working class Catholic School where many of our students were Puerto Rican immigrants whom we interacted with well and who, in some cases, like my cousin’s actually married.

      My own kids, in the eighties and 90’s went to a Catholic School in a relatively affluent NJ suburb. They had classmates from Paterson NJ, across the river. They all seemed to get along just fine. I myself have stopped completely contributing to my College and instead contribute exclusively to Incarnation School in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan. This is where I started out. The student body is 100% Dominican, either immigrant or children of immigrants. I have no problem with this, nor does my wife, nor do my children nor do many, many of my classmates from the class of 1960 who give not only their money but their time You seem to have had a series of unfortunate experiences and I am sorry for that. .

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