Both Dom Bettinelli and Amy Welborn comment on the elaborate and expensive renovations going on at Catholic high schools in the Boston area. Both wonder if these schools are really focusing on the correct mission for a Catholic school.
Before I say anything else, I first must say I graduated from Bishop Kelley Catholic High School and had a wonderful experience. I believe that experience was crucial to my holding on to my Faith through my early adult years. My older children have attended Catholic schools when they were available and had very good experiences. Still, my enthusiasm for Catholic schools has waned considerably in recent years.
Since moving to Northern Virginia, I have seen that the Catholic High Schools are prohibitively expensive. They seem no different than a secular private prep school. The parish grade schools are interesting. I see our parish pouring huge sums of money into a building project for the school. Yet I rarely if ever see the school reaching out to the parish. Our parish school was full a few years ago. Many of the children were not parish members. Yet, children who were members of the parish were denied admittance because there was no room. There seemed to be a preference for those willing to pay the premium price over those who paid the parish subsidized price. The school enrollment has dropped dramatically but parish members who were rudely snubbed before have no desire to fill the rolls now.
In another era Catholics were known for their large families and parish families would fill the parish schools. Now that Catholics are contracepting just like everyone else, schools have to squelch their Catholic identity to attract non-Catholic students. This defeats the whole point of Catholic schools. Catholic schools should be an academic extension of the Catholic community. On the parish level, the parish grade school should be part of the parish community. We are not supposed to be just filling desks. We are supposed to be reinforcing Catholic Faith and Catholic Values in our youth.
I think we are trying to utilize a model of Catholic education for a community that no longer exists. There is a place for Catholic schools in the inner city where the operation of schools is an act of charity. In typical suburbia, however, it seems ridiculous to pour inordinate sums of money into schools that educate only a small fraction of the Catholic youth. The Church would be better served by using those resources to offer quality Catholic catechesis to all of its youth and to their parents too!
You may also want to read this post.