Some 150 friends and supporters of Regina Angelourm Academy in Ardmore are gathering to celebrate the school’s 10th anniversary on Tuesday, April 25. The event at McCall Golf and Country Club in Upper Darby honors the academy’s founder, Barbara Henkels, and features a keynote address by former Senator Rick Santorum.
He is expected to reference his experience working with Henkels’ late husband, Paul, to advance the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program that allows Pennsylvania businesses to allocate a portion of their state tax dollars to private education. Santorum will present Henkels with a gift of thanks from the school.
She is also receiving a citation from the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, presented by Commissioner Joe Gale, who has noted the value of classical education in the formation of responsible, effective citizens.
The Henkels founded Regina Angelorum as the second of four independent Catholic classical Regina Academies to promote the time-tested model of classical education and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The schools, located in Ardmore, Abington, West Norriton and Ottsville, now educate almost 400 students in pre-K through eighth grade. The Regina Academies also include Regina Chesterton Academy at Cardinal O’Hara High School, which is a classical, secondary educational track that offers continuity to students trained in the classical model.
The model’s primary objective is to educate children to wisdom and virtue rather than employability, and to sensitize them to the so-called “transcendentals” of goodness, truth and beauty in the world around them.
The approach is characterized by the integration of subjects across the curriculum, a focus from the earliest grades on oral as well as written expression and careful attention to the evolving strengths of the children, referred to as the grammar, logic and rhetoric stages of development.
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The sounds of happy kids at recess on Catholic school playgrounds is becoming less frequent, almost to the point of non-existent. Over the past 50 years, from 1965 to 2015, the number of Catholic elementary schools has plummeted from almost 11,000 to little more than 5,000, and the number of students attending the elementary schools has dropped by a million — down to just 2.5 million across the entire nation.
The trend is undeniable. Diocese after diocese is being forced to close parishes and parish schools, owing to falling numbers of practicing Catholics. And the other unrecorded fact nationally is that back in the day, almost all the students in Catholic schools were Catholic. Today, not so much.
There are huge numbers of students sitting in Catholic schools who are not Catholic and never become Catholic. The entire reason for the existence of Catholic schools is to transmit the Faith. That hasn’t happened broadly in many decades.
The Regina Schools (and other Catholic Classical schools) are reversing this trend. For example our Regina school praise God has increased enrollment nearly 60% in 3 years (71 to 113) since it transitioned from a parish school to an independent Regina Academy.
A classical curriculum is not just about using different language, it’s an entirely different curriculum than what the archdiocese is currently using. Yes, there are many unsung parochial schools that do good work, but the system overall is in trouble. Highlighting different approaches that are successful can only stand to strenghten Catholic education as a whole.
Wonderful to see new Catholic schools, but ALL of our parochial schools educate our children in wisdom and virtue and promote faithfulness to the magisterium, though they may not use that kind of language to promote themselves. Lets celebrate these new schools, but lets also support those unsung parochial schools who have been doing this important work for so long without fanfare.