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Catholic Activity: The Parochial School

Newland emphasizes the importance of parents retaining their roles as the primary educators of their children, even if they send their children to good parochial schools.


The reason Catholics have parochial schools is to teach what is called formal education — all the things which seem to be remote from God — in relation to their Source, and in relation to the whole purpose of man on this earth. This content is fitted into the pattern of sacramental life by which a child will save his soul and know his obligation to help save the souls of others. He is taught all the lessons a public school child is taught, plus the truths of the Church which are necessary for salvation, and he is taught these last as commands imposed by Divine authority.

So parents who can send their children to parochial schools are blessed in a special way. But there is a danger some will thrust on the parochial school more than it proposes to do. Teaching nuns and Brothers are not the equivalent of parents, and no parochial school can substitute for a home or the example and teaching of parents. Together, the home and the parochial school can work into a whole piece the two phases of life which do the most to make the man. Without co-operation from the home, what is taught in the parochial school may very well, for some children, remain forever on the level of something "Sister says."

For instance, "Sister says you're supposed to be a saint."

"Yes? Well, all I hope is that Sister knows you're supposed to earn a living."

And it becomes quite clear to a child that being a saint has nothing to do with earning your living. Sister may say, until she is blue in the face, that it does have a connection, that how you earn your living may very well be the difference between saving your soul or losing it, but attitudes at home indicate that it is far more important to earn money; and pretty soon sanctity is relegated to the birds. Or at least to the nuns.

"What I like about the parochial schools is that children get such a good foundation in their religion. You can't really teach it at home." And sometimes parents retire permanently from the field, reluctant to encroach in any way on Sister's province, secure in the knowledge that under Sister the children will get the full treatment.

Sister may be a genius, but she cannot give the full treatment. She cannot follow a child home and take over the part of his education learned between three in the afternoon one day and nine in the morning the next. You can't really teach it at home? But that is what the home teaches — if it is fulfilling all its purpose. There are no two sets of truths for anyone, and what is taught in the parochial school is supposed to continue the teaching already started in the home, not to isolate a child from reality between six and eighteen. Parents have as heavy an obligation to teach and apply the truth about God to their parochial school children as to teach and apply it to pre-schoolers. There is no time when the nuns "take over." There is only this great blessing: there are nuns to help.

Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961

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