By Joan A. Mullin
The following story came to mind when reading about Catholic education: A beautiful baby daughter is born. As she grew, she cost money and time, but the returns were tremendous. College cost more money. Meeting a wonderful man, she planned her wedding; more money and time, but also grandchildren, new hope. Suddenly, she died. No more money, but also no future to dream about, to hope for. Recent news articles sadly reminded me of this.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “We are convinced that Catholic schools continue to be the most effective means available to the church for the education of children who are the future of the church.” Isn’t that what the New Evangelization should be?
Some facts: Under the Meitler Consultants Plan that the diocese commissioned in 2009, there was a call for developing strong leaders to fulfill the educational mission of the Catholic schools. It also called for a “continuum of Catholic school education,” grades pre-K to 16, by means of collaborative planning in terms of potential partnerships, resource sharing and curriculum/program development, particularly among the elementary schools, high schools and local colleges. An annual campaign for school tuition assistance should be part of development efforts. How many of these items happened?
The diocese states that $13 million goes to elementary schools, but the financial statements show $4.7 million directly to elementary schools; all of that assessed through diocese parishes. The parish I belong to was part of a regional school that was closed in 2010. This parish contributed $100,000 to the upkeep of that school. Today it is assessed $102,000 for no school access, since our suburban city will not bus. The out-migration of young child-bearing women was noted. It is down, but mothers from 25 to 44 have seen an increase in birth rates. This trend would bode well for Catholic education.
The U.S. bishops stated, “It is the responsibility of the entire Catholic community – bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity – to continue to strive toward the goal of making our Catholic elementary and secondary schools available, accessible and affordable to all Catholic parents and their children, including those who are poor and middle class.”
Let’s act like education matters, that forming Christian leaders matters, that our young adults matter by preserving Catholic education, by starting programs that bring adults in their 20s back to church so that they marry in church and baptize their children, by welcoming other Christians into our schools. Try something new: a longer school day, a 200-day school year, a coach/gym-based program for at-risk students, fewer tests than the core curriculum. Don’t let Catholic education die; the cost is too high.
Joan A. Mullin is director of campus ministry at Villa Maria College.