1. What is their mission?
2. Whom do they serve?
3. If a school is parish supported, how does it relate to the parish as a whole?
Parents choose or don’t choose Catholic schools for a wide variety of reasons. I went to a public elementary school and junior high, but attended a Catholic high school. My children have attended private secular schools, Catholic schools, and public schools, depending on where we were living at the time. Five years ago I was sure I would put my youngest in a Catholic school when we moved to Virginia. I arrived only to find the parish school was too full and couldn’t squeeze in one more kid. Within a couple of years, the enrollment picture markedly changed and there was plenty of room. However, I did not feel it was in my child’s best interest to uproot him from a stable quality educational situation just for the sake of having him in a Catholic school. Frequent military moves made me leery of changing schools without strong justification. We need to respect each parent’s choice for the education of his child. The parish has a responsibility to serve all the children, not just the ones in the parish school.
Barb, an ardent Catholic school supporter, made the following observation about CCD in her area:
In the parishes in my neighborhood, CCD is huge, but treated as an afterthought. Many parents I know let their kids "cut" CCD if they have sports practice. CCD is 1 hour a week for 20 weeks, and fifth-graders still spend a good amount of that time on arts and crafts.
My question is “Why does the parish treat the CCD program as an afterthought?” Does the parish feel that the “good” Catholics send their children to Catholic schools so there is no point in expending a lot of energy on the public school kids? Truthfully, I would probably let my child “cut” CCD if it was an hour of busy work and artsy projects instead of an hour of real catechesis. That is why a group of us chose to home school our children for eighth grade CCD this year. What they received during the CCD class was not worth the stress it put on the family to add another scheduled after-school activity. One hour a week may be better than nothing, but a structured program woven into Catholic family life is so much better.
As I pointed out above, there are a lot of good reasons to send your child to a public school instead of a Catholic school. (See Rich Leonardi’s post and subsequent comments on choosing a public high school instead of the Catholic high school) Emotions run high on both sides of the issue. Neither the Catholic schools nor the public schools have a monopoly on either the devout or the lukewarm Catholics. A parish has to honor the school choices parents make. Doing a stellar job with the three hundred students in the parish school does not justify ignoring the four hundred students in the CCD program. The parish must provide faith formation to all its members, not just an elite few.