The following is the transcript from Bishop Robert Marshall’s recent video about the importance of a Catholic Education.
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
In commercials and marketing materials, we often hear private and parochial schools proclaim their value. The value of this kindergarten, for example, is how effectively it prepares a child for first grade. The value of this elementary school is how effective it is in positioning its students for high school success. The value of a high school is the doors it opens to college or university scholarships. You get the point. In a time of economic uncertainty, we can understand the emphasis on value. No one wants to waste their money – everyone wants to be assured that they have spent their resources wisely. From a strictly value-added standpoint, Catholic schools certainly represent a sound investment. Throughout the country and here in the Diocese of Alexandria, Catholic schools invariably outperform area public schools by any measure of academic success – test scores, college admissions, college scholarships awarded. Yes, a Catholic education is valuable, it is solid, but more than that – a Catholic education is a blessing.
Through the sacrifices made by my parents, I was blessed to have received a Catholic education from first grade through the completion of my bachelor’s degree. I spent eight years in my parish elementary school, four years in a private Catholic high school, and I graduated from a Catholic college. I received a terrific education in math and science, in literature and grammar, in history and geography, and religion and all of the other academic disciplines. Yes, my mind was challenged and expanded. More importantly, I received that education in an environment in which my soul was nurtured. Not just one subject among many, Catholic Christianity permeated every facet of my education. I learned from an early age that I was a beloved child of God – precious in God’s eyes – and, just as importantly, so was everyone else. And we learned that God loved us enough to send his only begotten Son as our Savior and Redeemer. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh – and by the power of the incarnation he raised our lowly human nature to the realms of heaven. With this knowledge, with this great insight, we learned how important it was to treat one another with dignity and respect. That’s a lesson in short supply in contemporary society.
A Catholic school immerses a student into a centuries-old heritage of wisdom and culture. My education was not just from the news of the day – although that was certainly discussed. My education focused on Sacred Scripture, on art and music, on great literature and a liturgical and sacramental understanding that God reveals himself in his created world – in light and darkness, in water and oil, in bread and wine. A Catholic education, therefore, is broad – it addresses the needs and challenges of today across many academic subjects. Furthermore, a Catholic education is deep – one that draws upon ancient wisdom, one that rejoices in God’s self-revelation documented in sacred texts, and one that is set in a culture that gave us great cathedrals and magnificent paintings and sculpture, and soul-stirring music. All of this, the depth and breadth of a Catholic education enables us not just to think critically, but to discern – to think with the light of God’s Spirit, to make the moral decisions that move us from the selfishness of childhood and youth to an understanding of the importance of the common good. Imagine if contemporary American society actually moved from self-interest to caring for the common good. How much better – how much more decent, more just, more loving our world would be! That is the perspective that a Catholic education offers its students.
I encourage you to evaluate a Catholic education. Recognize the economic benefits of the investment that you make. More importantly, I invite you to see the blessing of a Catholic education, the horizons it will open, the cultural richness that just isn’t available from our throw-away, “swipe left” society. We want our students to be successful, to be sure – but more importantly, we want them to be good, and decent, and holy. I think you will agree that a Catholic education is a great blessing to give a child.