Catholic Schools Week 2008 - "Catholic Schools Light the Way"
Below is the talk I delivered at the end of Mass at St. Mary's Parish on Saturday night and Sunday morning for the beginning of Catholic Schools Week:
Hello. My name is Jay Anderson. I have been asked to speak to you today about Catholic Education, and to share with you my own family’s experiences with respect to Norwalk Catholic School. As you may know, this coming week is Catholic Schools Week, the 2008 theme for which is “Catholic Schools Light the Way”. Please allow me to relate to you how the Catholic Schools here in Norwalk have helped to light the way for my family.REMINDER: Tomorrow - 28 January - is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of Catholic schools. St. Thomas Aquinas, Ora Pro Nobis.
My family is new to Catholic education. In fact, my family is new to the Catholic Church. Sarah and I are both converts to Catholicism, having entered the Church in June of 2004. At the time of our conversion, we lived in Virginia, and the thought of someplace called Norwalk, Ohio, had never even entered our minds. We had two small children – our oldest, Jamie was only 2-years-old, and Aidan was a newborn. Sarah and I had come from different faith backgrounds – she grew up a Unitarian and I grew up Southern Baptist, but as recent converts to Catholicism, we both knew that we wanted our children to grow up with a solid Catholic foundation and a love for their Faith.
But how were Sarah and I – still ourselves learning about our newfound Faith – how were we going to provide our children with the foundation they needed? We believed we needed a “Catholic support structure” in place to help us in that endeavor. But, apart from our RCIA sponsors and a few Catholic friends, that was something we really didn’t have. No one in our families was Catholic. In fact, both our families were fairly indifferent – if not outright hostile – to our decision to enter the Church. Some of our family members do not share the same values that we want to impart to our children, and none of them share the Faith that we wanted our children to have ingrained within them. So, where were we to turn for such help?
We immediately thought of Catholic education. We wanted our children to attend Catholic schools where they could be provided a solid academic foundation while learning about the tenets of their Faith, learning about God and developing a relationship with Him. Even though Jamie was still a few years away from beginning school, we began investigating some of the Catholic schools in our part of Virginia, and soon discovered that we were not going to have an easy time of it. You see, Catholic education was apparently never made a priority in the Diocese of Richmond, in which we lived. Historically, parish schools were the exception rather than the norm. Instead, the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Richmond tended to be fairly recent start-ups serving several parishes. We discovered that these schools were far beyond what we would be able to afford to pay. Without extensive parish support, almost the entire cost of education came from tuition, which made tuition quite expensive. An example: when we checked into enrolling Jamie in Kindergarten at the nearest Catholic school, the cost was going to be somewhere between $4000 and $5000. [ED.: Looks like I was a little low on that number - actual tuition is nearly $6000.] For Kindergarten. That obviously wasn’t going to work for us, especially with Sarah thinking about leaving her job and becoming a stay-at-home mom as our family grew. But we were committed to obtaining a good Catholic education for our children. So, we began to look elsewhere.
At Thanksgiving in 2004, we visited some of Sarah’s family who live in Milan. I had never been to Ohio before, but really liked what I saw of this area. Sarah and I began thinking maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad place to raise our family. We asked Sarah’s family about the availability of Catholic education in this part of Ohio, and they told us about the excellent reputation of the Catholic schools in Norwalk. When we returned to Virginia, we began investigating. Sarah contacted Sue Riley of FCEDO, and obtained an information packet from her. We were very impressed by what we read in that packet about the Catholic schools in Norwalk, especially the tuition costs, which were much lower than what we had seen at Catholic schools in Virginia.
In May of 2005, we made an appointment with Sue Riley for us to come to Norwalk to tour the Catholic schools. Sue was kind enough to spend the better part of a day with us visiting both parishes and all grade levels of both St. Mary’s School and St. Paul’s School. She also explained to us the changes that were just beginning to take place at that time, which would eventually culminate in the formation of a united Norwalk Catholic Schools. Sarah and I explained to Sue that what we were looking for was that “Catholic support structure” that I mentioned earlier, which would help us in bringing up our children as strong Catholics. While we realized that Catholic formation is primarily the responsibility of parents, we were looking for a school, a parish, and a community that would aid us in meeting that responsibility. For that reason, we wanted our kids to attend a Catholic school with a strong sense of Catholic identity – in other words, one that took its mission as a Catholic school seriously and was not “Catholic in name only”. We also wanted a school with strong support from the local Catholic parishes – where the parishes were actively involved in the schools, and the schools, in turn, were actively involved in the parishes. We found that here in Norwalk.
In December of 2005, we finally relocated to Norwalk from Virginia, and we began attending St. Mary’s parish. Since moving here, our family has grown with the addition of our two little girls, Mary Virginia and Grace Assumpta. Jamie is currently attending Kindergarten, and Aidan will begin preschool at the Early Childhood Center next school year. All of our children will be educated in the Norwalk Catholic Schools, and it is our hope that they will grow up to be strong Catholics and active contributing members to our parish, our schools, and our community. We have found the “Catholic support structure” that will help us to see to that. Our schools. Our community. Our parish. YOU are that support structure. YOU are helping us and others like us raise strong Catholic families. And this parish’s commitment throughout its history to providing Catholic education is only a part of that.
This week, you will be receiving the Friends for the Future brochure in the mail. Please take time to read about this 15th annual campaign. The money raised from this campaign is used to assist Norwalk Catholic Schools with current operating needs, tuition assistance, and the endowment fund. As you prayerfully consider a gift, remember that all gifts regardless of the size make a difference in the lives of children at Norwalk Catholic School, and in the lives of families like ours.
The fact that the Anderson family are parishioners at St. Mary’s – that we are residents of Norwalk – is a testament to the commitment that this parish and this community have made to Catholic education throughout the years. My family would not be here today were it not for those who, through their time, talent, and treasure, helped to build the strong foundation of Catholic education in Norwalk, Ohio.
Thank you and God bless you.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
The Good News and Bad News of Catholic Schools Week
Catholic Schools Week