Catholic Schools week began in our diocese this weekend, and as a part of our celebration, our regional school, Queen of Angels, exhibited a display in the vestibule, had youngsters serve as speakers at each Mass and greeters as people arrived. They also handed out white ribbons to those who had attended a Catholic School. Many people wore those ribbons, myself included.
As I observed the many who took those ribbons, I began to recall the places in the diocese that had Catholic schools associated with their parishes that I was aware of. Our part of God's kingdom is long in its history of ethnic parishes, small towns and moderate sized cities, and a distant past that was sometimes touched by an anti-Catholic bias. Nearly all of our schools were parish centered, and many reflected the perceived need of a safe and Catholic centered environment. A number of those parishes also hosted a parish high school. Great sacrifices were made and the school became the focus of the parish.
As I listed those schools in my head, I counted fifty-five parish schools in our diocese over the years (I'm unsure about two of them, so let's say fifty-three) and three private grade schools. I counted at least eight high schools, with two of those private (Saint Vincent Prep where I attended and Saint Xavier Girls Academy in Latrobe run by the Sisters of Mercy). And, of course, we have two Catholic colleges. Presently we have eleven parish/regional elementary schools, three private schools, as well as the two junior high/high schools and Seton Hill University and Saint Vincent College.
Changing times, changing demographics, better public schools, rising tuition costs, and a fading of the value of faith based education in the lives of our children have brought us to where we are today. Our mission to Catholic School education continues to be challenging. But what we possess is a rich blessing, what we offer to our youngsters is a strong program and a nurturing surrounding, and what we provide is a proclamation of the Good News and the values that flow from the Gospel message. There is richness and tradition in what we do. We are proud of those involved in that mission of Catholic School Education. We showcase that this week during Catholic Schools Week.