Catholic schools an important part of growing young people

Published 10:21 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Joseph Steepleton
Pacelli President, Guest Columnist

Catholic Schools have been my passion all of my professional career from my first day as a new teacher in 1971 in a small rural Catholic School in North Central Iowa to this day as president of Pacelli Catholic. I believe in them with every fiber of my being.

Catholic Schools have four hallmarks and the mission of every Catholic school revolves around those four expectations: 1. to proclaim the Gospel message, 2. to build a community of believers, 3. to promote prayer and worship, 4. to teach service in the name of Jesus.

Email newsletter signup

These hallmarks are always in the context of a deep commitment to academic excellence. We refer to this as the Catholic identity.

One of the most valued parts of the Catholic school story is the impact the school has on the life and values of the children we serve.

One of my favorite stories is about a student I had many years ago. I like to tell people that every gray hair has a name and the one right in the front is named Russ. Russ was a student, who as a freshman could challenge you to sainthood. Russ was contrary; you say go right, he would go left. I suspected he did it just to annoy me. Russ challenged us all to summon all that was good to model to him patience, kindness, charity, and tolerance. Russ was one who you were pretty sure he did not get it.

Three years later, one day in early fall the new crop of freshman were buzzing about. The lunch time cafeteria had 400 plus students and in all of the confusion one poor freshman bumped into someone and dropped his tray of food with such a clatter. Of course the upper classman were not beyond a good razzing, out of nowhere who stops and helps the freshman clean up, gets him a new tray of food, and sits down with him to console him, yes, it was Russ. Twenty-five years later, now Fr. Russ serves as pastor at a parish that has a school. He understands the importance of Catholic schools in his life and lives that commitment to provide the same positive experience he had to the next generation.

It is the daily exposure to faith, Gospel virtues. and Catholic values that reinforces for me the importance of our Catholic schools. I have seen the value to individuals, to families, to parishes, to entire communities, and to the Catholic Church. My own daughter attended a small Catholic high school in central Wisconsin. The quality of the academic education she received was exceptional, more importantly the quality of the religious preparation was beyond compare. This is referenced by the fact that this small school with only 160 students in 9-12 had produced 17 vocations over the past twenty years. They obviously were doing something right.

Catholic schools enhance and add value to our parishes and civic communities. We have reinforced our continued commitment to Pacelli Catholic Schools through the Strategic Plan for Schools. The schools, in turn, have accepted the challenge to grow and improve. We ask your support of our Pacelli Catholic Schools. We encourage you to visit our Catholic School during Catholic Schools Week Jan. 29- Feb. 3. We ask you support Pacelli Catholic Schools through the Pacelli Annual Appeal.