Non-Catholic Students Say They Feel Welcome
Byline: Sarah Trotto
Steve Cothard of Elmhurst remembers feeling like an outsider on his first day of school at Immaculate Conception High School.
"As far as I knew, I was the only non-Catholic in the building," Cothard said. "One thing that stood out in my mind was that everyone was linked by their Catholic faith and I wasn't."
Cothard, a senior, is not the only non-Catholic at the Elmhurst parochial school, though he is in the minority.
Nine out of 235 total students who attend Immaculate Conception are non-Catholic, according to the 1998-99 Annual Secondary School Survey.
"IC is open to everyone in reference to race, religion and creed," said Principal Sister Maureen Field. "It is not a requirement to be Catholic to be a student at IC."
All Immaculate Conception students - including those who are non-Catholic - are required to attend in-school Mass and take three credits of theology to graduate.
Cothard said these requirements are not a hassle.
"I don't mind it, because attending a Catholic school is an educational experience," he said.
"I think I enjoy Mass more than some other students do. It doesn't seem to mean much to a lot of the students around me because they've been going to Mass for years and years. It's a new experience to me."
Through their possible unfamiliarity with Catholicism, non-Catholic students help Catholic students learn about the religion, said theology teacher Jane Connors.
"I find that non-Catholic students bring a fresh perspective to a discussion of faith," Connors said. "Their questions about Catholic rituals forces a Catholic student to look at what has not been questioned as much in their own faith tradition."
Junior Melissa Gosche believes the freedom to discuss religion in private school is valuable not only in theology class.
"Religion is a big issue in the book 'The Scarlet Letter' that we're reading in English class," she said. …