Ask a Carmelite Sister
Sister Laus Gloriae here with a question this time. “Do parents know that they are not alone in raising their children?”
Our beloved Sister Maureen, principal of Coleman Carroll High School in Miami, Florida, and former supervisor of education for the Carmelite Sisters, asked me this question recently. She asked if I thought parents knew they are not alone in raising their children. She wrote about this subject shortly before her death just a few months ago. She was a dynamic and caring teacher. She taught and supervised children in many of our schools and helped many of their families. So, I put her question in this “Ask a Carmelite Sister” with her heartfelt, passionate and committed answer.
To All Parents, everywhere.
As Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, with our charism of promoting the spiritual life among God’s people, a most important apostolate for us is that of education. Our foundress, Mother Luisita, always integrated catechism classes and spiritual formation in her work among the poor, even in her hospital. From her legacy has grown our centers for day care, pre-school and kindergarten, parish elementary schools, high schools, religious education programs, and work with teens and young adults in our retreat and conference centers. We consider these endeavors integral to our mission of educating the family for life – for to assist in the education of a child, is to help educate the whole family.
For any parent raising children in our present societies, the task is formidable. It could be said that the task has always been a difficult one, because children do not come with an instruction book. However, it can also be argued that, in former times, parents enjoyed the support of immediate and extended family, neighborhood, and societal structures that were based on Christian principles. This is not true of our present culture.
It is the experience of many of us who have served a lengthy time in education to also see the effects of this shift in values on students entering school. More children are coming to school from a home life that is no longer the solid structure of the two-parent home. Both parents most often are working, or the single parent is struggling to provide. Parents, due to advertising, “pop” psychology, or time constraints, are pressured into providing gift s and demanding little of their children in the way of manners, family chores, or respect for parental authority. Very oft en the spiritual and character formation, so necessary for success in school and life, is not present. Many parents, who have set their family values and children’s formation as priority, are also struggling to maintain these values against a culture that does not support them. What can parents do?
For many Catholic families, and even those who are not Catholic, the Catholic school is a partner in the formation of their children. Catholic schools were instituted in the United States to uphold the values of the family and maintain the Catholic faith. However, there has also been a cultural shift in the use of Catholic schools. At the present time, many Catholic schools have empty seats. Some would say it is the economy; schools are expensive. However, in the experience of this writer, the expense is not the only, or major, reason. Culture and lifestyle have also affected the choice of schools. The factors of safety, quality of teachers, educational achievement (demonstrated in test scores), closeness to one’s home, and extracurricular activities are still important. However, if these qualities can be found at a good public school, charter, or magnet school, parents can maintain their lifestyle with many amenities, where in the choice of a Catholic school these might need to be sacrificed.
What is wrong with this picture? The great need of our young people to be educated in faith, morals, and Christian values – the very reason our Catholic schools exist. It has been proven that Catholic schools, while helping to form faith-filled young people, also excel in the other qualities parents search for in a school: high achievement, wide variety of learning experiences, safe campuses, use of modern technology in learning, and extracurricular programs such as sports and music. However, the most important quality cannot really be listed; it must be experienced. Our schools are places where the students are immersed in a loving family-like atmosphere. The students know that God loves them and they are His children. This is taught, but also demonstrated in the care of their teachers and the behavior and respect that is emphasized. The children are enabled to form a personal relationship with Jesus and have opportunities to exercise that relationship in personal and liturgical prayer – in weekly Mass, frequent reception of the sacraments, praying the rosary, celebration of the church year, and in the numerous activities provided for service. And, because the schools extend this family atmosphere, parents become involved in it, often re-energizing their own faith and practice along with their children.
Thanks be to God!
Did You Know?*
- Nearly one of every five K–12 institutions in the United States today (2008) is faith-based.
- Four out of every ten parents in the United States send their children to a faith-based school. (2008)
- Three out of five faith-based schools are Catholic. (2008)
- Compared to other students of the same demographic background, minority students in urban Catholic schools are 42 percent likelier to complete high school, and inner-city minorities are two and a half times more likely to obtain a college degree if they attended a Catholic rather than a public high school – some very impressive results. (2008)
- How do Catholic Schools play that critical role? First, by offering quality education, and that’s just not in the early grades. In high school, parochial schools, 98 percent of the students graduate and 97 percent go on to higher education. (2008)
*U.S. Department of Education, Preserving a Critical National Asset: America’s Disadvantaged Students and the Crisis in Faith-based Urban Schools, Washington, D.C., 2008. This report is also on the Department’s Web site at www.ed.gov/admins/comm/choice.
Until next time,
Sister Laus Gloriae, O.C.D.
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