Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic schools are a gift to our Church and nation

by Dr. Duane Schafer, Superintendent of Catholic Schools

(From the Aug. 19, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Dr. Duane SchaferCatholic schools have existed in our nation for nearly 400 years! The very first Catholic school of record in the territory to become the United States was founded by the Franciscans in St. Augustine, Florida in 1606 “to teach the children Christian doctrine, reading, and writing.” In 1640 a former Jesuit novice established the first Catholic school in Maryland at Newton Manor, and in 1727 twelve Ursuline sisters opened a school in New Orleans to educate girls from all walks of life. This school, Ursuline Academy, still exists today as the oldest continuously operating school for women in the United States. In 1782 St. Mary School was opened in Philadelphia, and in 1808 Elizabeth Ann Seton established a school for girls in Baltimore, staffed by a group of women who eventually became the Sisters of Charity. By 1880 there were 2,246 parochial elementary schools serving 405,234 students in our country, and by 1966 the Catholic school enrollment in our country reached 5.6 million students.

Catholic schools have truly been a gift to our Church and our nation! They have successfully educated and formed in our faith many of the religious, political, educational, and business leaders throughout the history of this country. It is estimated that more than 30 million students have attended Catholic schools in the United States over the last 400 years. Today there are approximately 8,000 Catholic schools serving more than 2.5 million students throughout the U.S.A., and approximately 3,500 Catholic school students will return to their classrooms in the Diocese of Spokane on Sept. 1!

The Catholic schools of today, just as those in the past, continue to be effective instruments of evangelization and education. The bishops of the United States stated in the document, To Teach as Jesus Did, “Of the educational programs available to the Catholic community, Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the threefold purpose of Christian education among children and young people” (#101, p. 28).

There are two decades of research that affirm that Catholic schools do make a difference in the lives of the children who attend them. Over and over the research supports the fact that Catholic school students score higher on standardized achievement tests than public school students. In addition, Catholic school students are more likely to complete high school (99.2%) and attend and complete college than public school students.

Although not as much research exists regarding the religious outcomes of Catholic schools, Convey and Thompson (1999) noted in their study “that attending a Catholic school is the greatest predictor of strong religious knowledge.” However, Catholic schools not only teach basic religious knowledge, but they teach it within a moral framework. Catholic schools help parents form their children to become the strong moral leaders of tomorrow.

Our children are our future leaders. They are our future civic leaders and our future church leaders! It is imperative that they not only be educated in the basic skills but more importantly be formed as strong Catholic Christian adult leaders; leaders who strive to serve others and bring about peace and justice in our world. Today, perhaps more than ever before, we need leaders who both proclaim and live the Gospel! Our Diocesan School Mission Statement affirms, “our schools make available a Catholic Education to all who desire it and strive to educate, evangelize and form globally responsive servant leaders, in light of Gospel values.”

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a Catholic school education for your child, please call the Diocesan School Office at 358-7330 or 1-800-831-1768 and/or check out the schools website.

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