This week throughout the Diocese we celebrate Catholic Schools Week.  It concludes with Bishop Swain celebrating Mass at Augustana on Friday with students filling the gym from all the Catholic Schools in Sioux Falls as well as students from Vermillion and Brandon.  He always begins his homily with a roll call to make sure all the schools showed up, at which time the kids yell and waive their hands in the air to let him know they are present – one of the highlights of the day!  I’m certain that the St. Lambert School students will be the loudest!  Each of the students, faculty and staff proudly wear their Catholic School shirts with this year’s slogan – Catholic Schools:  Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.  Since I was not raised in a Catholic School, going to these Masses and working as the O’Gorman Junior High Chaplain as part of my first assignment, was all new.  But through those experiences, I have become more convinced that we as Catholics have a commitment to ensuring that our Catholic Schools continue to thrive and welcome more of our youth.

It is not a surprise to anyone this day and age that Catholic Schools are in a state of decline throughout the country.  In 1960, more than 5.2 million students were enrolled in nearly 13,000 schools across America.  Today there are only 2.1 million students enrolled in only 7,000 schools.  There are many reasons for the decline whether it be a huge loss in religious vocations who used to be the major work force behind these schools, changes in demographics with less immigration of Catholics from Europe and finally the rising cost of the standard of living which has forced both parents to acquire jobs thus in some ways putting Catholic education beyond their budget.  Probably the biggest change though is the thinking that the Catholic Schools are separate from the parish and the diocese – that it is just an option that parents choose as if it were just another private school.  These Catholic Schools are important to the parish, to the Diocese and to the universal Church since they help keep a strong community.  Studies show that Catholic Schools are an unquestionable success in every way – spiritually, academically and communally.  They graduate young adults who are more inclined to continue to practice their faith through Mass attendance and prayer, maintain a pro-life attitude against abortion, increased willingness to consider a religious vocation and continued support for the local Church through their time, treasure and talent.

I am the first to say that we have some great public schools…and if I must say so myself, Mitchell High School, home of the Kernels, provided me with an outstanding education which has allowed me many wonderful opportunities.  But as we become a more secularized society, there is a great tendency to push God out of everything – even to say a prayer at graduation is like pulling teeth.  Catholic educators understand the importance of a great education, wonderful extracurricular activities – also provided by public schools – but also desire the faith dimension…being able to pray, attend Mass, learn the virtues – truly raising the standard of our youth!

There are many though in our society who just can’t afford to go to a Catholic School.  Money should not be the determining factor on who does and does not get a Catholic education.  Our parish supports families with monetary assistance each year.  Maybe you would be interested in sponsoring a child in need!

Sioux Falls Catholic Schools….to form a community of faith and learning by promoting a Catholic way of life through Gospel values and academic excellence.

 God Bless You!

Fr Young