apologize in advance because I cannot back up with hard
evidence that which I opine about below.
Someone once gave me a book about schools.
Specifically it compared Catholic schools to
public schools and the book’s premise was to show how much better (in general)
public schools are.
By the end of the
book the authors found themselves in the opposite camp for a specific
Unfortunately I loaned this book
out and never got it back.
So unless you
want my hearsay, stop reading.
The book talked about how public schools were to be the
center of the community, with community support and input to make the teaching
of the child a community event, directed by the community, and with ownership
by the community.
Particularly in large
populated areas this is no longer the case.
Children are amalgamated into larger and larger groups, often shipped
quite a distance away from their neighborhood into areas that their families
have no real tie.
A shift in mentality
has occurred and it is this:
It is the
government’s job to teach my child.
send him or her to school and they come back to me improved.
My job is to pay my taxes.
This is an extreme view, one leaned more
toward than actually embraced, but it gets the point across.
Enter the typical Catholic school (which is neither a public
school nor a private school, but a parochial school.)
The school itself springs out of a gathered
The fact that it exists is by
the charity of the people in the pew.
(In the typical parish the tuition you pay for your child if you are a
member of the parish does not even come close to paying for the cost of
educating your child.
Such is the case
at St. Sebastian.
The parish subsidizes
parents are sacrificing to send their kids, because the community is
sacrificing to keep the school open, they have more of a stake in how well the
school is running.
The school, in turn, provides direct benefits to the life of
the parish and community.
Just the active
life of its own children so visible around the heart of the community is one
There are those things
that just add sparkle to the life of the parish such as having young servers
available for daily Mass and funerals.
Good schools have community outreach and make the parish’s presence in
the community livelier.
increase of activity around the parish gives life and promotes itself.
That’s what works for us.
So it is with a word of caution that I call to mind Cardinal Dolan’s
(a person I respect) plan for the future of Catholic schools.
In essence it is this: to make regional Catholic schools that serve a
number of parishes. There are many
benefits to this. The burden of cost to
each of the parishes would be less.
Administrative worries would be greatly reduced. Personnel resources would become less
stressed in areas such as maintenance.
There could be a great pooling of resources.
But at what expense?
We would be following the same model as the public schools, taking
children out of their neighborhood, moving administration further away from
home, disconnecting the direct ties to a parish, alienating some of the life
that a school gives directly to a parish, and making parishes compete for
authority. (You think working with one pastor
is tough? Try having 5 pastors with very
different ideas try to decide at which parish the graduation will be at this
I’m not saying that it wouldn’t work.
I have seen it work.
I have also seen it work poorly and
But even in those cases where it
does work, the direct benefit to the parish has been lessened.
I may be the way of the future due to
finances – it is this or nothing – but I would just add
great caution in jumping too quickly without accounting for these intangibles
lest we end up like the public schools.