At the midpoint of Catholic Schools Week in the Archdiocese, its theme, “spanidends for Life,” bears consideration by parents with children in Catholic schools and those without. The theme evokes financial sacrifices made today with the hope of a “return on investment” tomorrow.
Parents know the sacrifices they make to provide a Catholic education do pay off in the lives of their children. Examples abound of young people formed well as adults, both intellectually and spiritually, thanks to their Catholic education. That includes products of Catholic schools and those of parish religious education programs (PREP), also known as CCD.
But the parish also benefits greatly by the presence of a school. Parents, grandparents, children and their friends see one another at school events, sports, parish socials and in church celebrating the sacraments together. Their participation as active members enlivens the parish community. A Catholic parish school can rightly be called an engine of evangelization in the community.
Any pastor of a parish with a school knows that with these spanidends come enormous sacrifices as well. Many parishes struggle mightily to pay professional teacher salaries with benefits, maintain large and expensive school buildings and keep up to date with educational materials and resources. Well-funded public school districts, charter and private schools and even neighboring Catholic schools pose challenges to keep enrollment sufficient to meet costs.
Declining enrollment in some communities has meant parishes have closed their traditional Catholic school. Parents’ alternatives include sending children to a regional Catholic school or to a public school, and enrolling them in the parish’s PREP program.
Despite these changes in traditional Catholic elementary school enrollment, the contributions of school-age families remain vital to the life of the parish. That is why it is essential for parents to make the connection between the prayers of Sunday and the busyness of school days, in whatever setting they take place.
Catholic parents have the responsibility to form their children as committed followers of Jesus with the help of Catholic education. Bringing children to church to celebrate Mass with the parish is the most fundamental part of that formation process.
The spanidends from parents’ sacrifices of time, talents and tuition accrue not only for the children as they grow but also for the life of their parish. They ensure that it brings the graces of the sacraments to the community for generations to come.