What makes a Catholic school a Catholic school?
It is not the word Catholic being attached to the school. A Catholic school most definitely should have the word “Catholic” in its title, but if it is only the title, then all you have is a private school.
It is not throwing up statuary and saying it’s “Catholic.”
To be sure, statues, icons, and other Catholic imagery should be readily seen in a Catholic school. However, if that is all that is happening, then, again, all you have is a private school.
It is not just about having religion classes as a part of the curriculum.
First, if the religion being taught is watered down, opinion-based, or heterodox, then the classes are like brackish water–they do more harm than good to the faith formation of the students.
If the religion is treated as disposable to “more important” things on the schedule, is treated as not core to the curriculum, or simply not taken seriously, all you have is a private school. Religion should be taught, to be sure, but more needs to happen.
What makes a Catholic school a Catholic School is what makes a Catholic parish Catholic.
Is it a place of prayer? Is it a place of devotion (to something other than sports)? Is it a place of service? Is it a place where virtue is promoted, lived, and expected? Is it tied to the mission of the Church? Is it producing vocations?
I maintain that the single most important aspect of the Catholic school is the parents!
Because I can have world-class teachers and administrators. I can have completely engaging and orthodox catechesis and academic formation.
I can have enough statuary to fill a museum. I can expose these students to the full breadth of the sacramental and devotional life of the Church.
It will all be for naught if the Catholic formation isn’t happening in the home as well.
That said, as a pastor, it is my responsibility to make sure the parish keeps its side of the bargain in providing the best academic and spiritual formation we can do.
Be aware, though, that I and many of my brother priests have absolutely zero interest in running private schools. Zero.
I will pour out myself for a strong Catholic school…I haven’t an iota of time for a private school.
As a pastor…we run a Catholic school.
That is where my principal is. That is where my staff is. That is where my school board is at. Most importantly, that is what our bishop insists that our schools be.
Not Catholic in name only, but incubators that produce strong, faithful, and lifelong Catholics.
We might have non-Catholics who do have children in our schools, but they are looking for a private school where faith matters.
My Catholic parents should be even more so in the deepening of their Catholic identity.