My husband, James and I currently have three children in St. Vincent de Paul Regional School. Our oldest boy, James, is in second grade and is looking forward to making his first Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Our twins, Ben and Martha are in kindergarten. Teddy is only two and not quite ready for school, although he desperately wants to get on the bus every morning.
I attended St. Joseph Regional School in Sea Isle, from kindergarten through 4th grade. I loved going to St Joe’s. I made great friends there, and got my foundation in my Catholic faith there, made my first communion, first reconciliation, and confirmation there. I remember that the Sister JoEllen, the principal when I attended, was a great influence on me. She was always so nice, but she expected good behavior and good grades, and she also wanted us to have fun. She always brought out the best in us, and I still think of her often in my daily life . . . what would Sister say or expect? I fondly remember my prayer partner from St. Joe’s with whom I still have contact.
Catholic school taught me how to treat others with kindness, to always lend a helping hand, to serve others, and to make time for your church. We, of course, learned our school work, Phonics, and math. I still sing the multiplication table songs. I learned respect in my Catholic school; respect for the religious that lived next to and worked in our school, respect for our priests, respect for everyone who lived and worked in the community, and respect for our fellow classmates and school mates. I learned to be a helper, even if it made you uncomfortable. I can remember the 7th and 8th grade boys on our bus, would help the little kids off the bus, especially in the rain, even if it meant they got wet or stepped in deep puddles.
Unfortunately, life took a turn and I was unable to continue my Catholic school education after the 4th grade and transferred to the public school. I always missed my Catholic school, my friends, my teachers, and my faith community. After we left, I always felt like something was missing.
Church and faith life are important to my husband James and I. It started for me in Catholic school, and for James in his family, most especially from his grandfather. Together we went to the Newman Center at Monmouth University. We had many retreats and many cups of coffee with Mrs. Jakub and Father Fred. We attended Sunday night Mass at the Newman Center, even rushing back to campus after being home for a weekend. The friendships we made at the Newman Center made a lasting impact on our lives. Being Catholic is a part of who we are as a family. We knew early on that we wanted a Catholic education for our family. We believe there is nothing that can compare to a Catholic education. The students who graduate from Catholic school are compassionate, well-rounded, and well-educated. They make excellent leaders, both in society and in the church.
It is important for all families of the church to support Catholic schools, even if you are not a school family. Catholic schools provide an excellent education for their students at more than half the cost to educate a child in the public school. The schools provide excellent opportunities for their students. The Catholic schools today are graduating tomorrow’s leaders. These leaders have been taught compassion not just for themselves but for everyone in the community. Catholic schools are producing church leaders, people who serve on the parish council, lectors, choir members, Eucharistic Ministers, Deacons, religious, and Priests. These young men and women care about what is going in not only in their own families, but in their faith community, and in the world.
(a speech given at St. Vincent de Paul Church during Catholic Schools Week)