Maria and Omar Rivera of Holy Innocents Parish in Philadelphia say their children’s Catholic education is an investment with lifelong dividends. (Photo courtesy of Maria and Omar Rivera)

If my husband and I had a quarter for every time someone asked us, “Do you really have all five children in Catholic school?” we would have a college fund started for our kids.

We have heard this question many times as we are reminded of the many other things we could be doing with our money — especially now, as it seems like we are under constant pressure to acquire more and more material goods for our family. Our reply remains the same: “As long as God allows us to have our children there, they will be in Catholic school.”

This has been the case for us for the past eight years. We currently have five children, from preK to grade seven, attending Holy Innocents Parish School in Philadelphia.

It has not been easy, but God continues to provide a way for them to be there, and we cannot think of a better place for them to receive a quality education.

Around the time that we were expecting our first child, the question of where he would go to school was never something that was debated. We knew that we would always place a Catholic education over other things that we would want in life.

And as we continued to be blessed with children, we made the decision that this was a life investment instead of a sacrifice. Some people decide to invest their money in many different things, such as the stock market, real estate, cars and other items. For our family, the choice of investment has been a Catholic education.

As someone who personally attended Catholic school from kindergarten through college, I have had firsthand experience of the many benefits that our children now receive by being part of this community of learners. My husband, who was not able to obtain the same education, greatly values the opportunities that his children have in Catholic school.

We understand that we are the first teachers of faith for our children. However, at Holy Innocents, our children have second teachers of faith. They are allowed to pray and talk about God, go to church together and actually practice Catholic values in their day-to-day activities. For example, students are encouraged to give to those in need and to pray for those who are sick or suffering. They are challenged to be kind and service-oriented, and they learn how to live the message of Jesus in their everyday interactions with one another. They learn to carry God in their hearts every single day.

As parents of multiple children, you could say our hearts walk around in our children daily wherever they may go. Safety is something that our family values and the last thing we want to worry about when we are at work. We know that the structure and discipline provided at our children’s school ensures that the children are safe. Rules are enforced, not as a means of making the day difficult, but instead to make sure that everyone understands and values each other’s well-being. Never has there been a time when structure and rules play such an important role in keeping our children safe.

Despite our initial hesitancy of sending our children back to in person learning due to COVID-19, we knew that if there was any educational program that could pull off in-person instruction, it would be that of the Catholic school system. They put a plan into place that help to ease our family’s concerns, and they have been proactive about enforcing safety practices needed to make this work.

We are now about five weeks into the school year during a worldwide pandemic and the school continues to take all the necessary precautions seriously. Catholic schools value an environment of safety and being able to welcome children back during these uncertain times highlights this in a special way.

Henry Brooks Adams said, “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” The teachers and staff that work at our children’s school don’t just do a job. They are dedicated men, women and religious sisters who take their responsibility to educate seriously and who do so in a Christ-centered manner.

Everyone, from our lunch person to our afterschool care providers, plays a special role in our children’s lives. They do their jobs with care, love and compassion and go above and beyond to inspire hopes and dreams and to instill values, skills and knowledge. The staff in Catholic schools are supported in their various roles and so the children are greatly valued and cared for individually.  The educators in Catholic schools are chosen carefully for their passion and ability to go above and beyond the call and for the positive and lifelong impact over our children’s lives.

Access to an adequate, nurturing education for children is key to the success of our society. It is one of the tools that enables our children to face the many challenges the world will present to them. A good education that provides a solid foundation of morals and helps shape character is very important.

Because education is vital to our future world, year after year, our family will strive to continue to invest in our children’s life-lasting Catholic education.

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Maria and Omar Rivera of Holy Innocents Parish in Philadelphia are the proud parents of Isaiah, Elijah, Adrian, Andrew and Ethan Rivera, all of whom attend Holy Innocents Parish School.