Lessons Cover Life, Too Parents like Catholic Schools' Religious Setting
Brack-Johnson, Ann, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Ann Brack-Johnson Daily Herald Correspondent
A tall, blond eighth-grader stood with his buddies in front of St. Patrick Catholic School in St. Charles, amid a sea of children laughing and calling to their parents.
It was the end of another school day and the end of a semester. When Charlie Hall's mother walked up to him, he leaned over to whisper in her ear, then handed her his report card.
Carolyn Hall took a step back and affectionately punched at his arm. "You made high honors! That's great!" she said.
Charlie and his family are nondenominational, and he is among 2 percent of St. Patrick's 530 students who are not Catholic. Hall said she enrolled her son at St. Pat's because of the school's "quality of education and the respect and values that we teach at home are incorporated in the classroom ... The children are here to learn. They focus on what they're supposed to be doing."
Charlie added, "Love for God and love for each other are emphasized in this school."
During National Catholic Schools Week, parents and students such as the Halls, and teachers and administrators throughout the Fox Valley are touting the benefits of education in a religious setting. They also are reflecting on the rich heritage of Catholic schools and their vision for the future.
Beyond the ABCs
At St. Peter's Catholic School in Geneva, Principal Deborah Bray reviewed red construction paper booklets assembled by parents expressing their faith in a Catholic education.
One family wrote: "More than the ABCs are taught in Catholic school. Besides an emphasis on good academics, Catholic schools teach us to be good students both in and outside of the classroom."
Another family wrote their children "learn good study habits as well as kindness and respect towards others. These are valuable lessons that are useful for a lifetime."
Bray said St. Peter's School stresses the basics for its 356 students.
"In the work force today, a diploma from a Catholic school means young adults know how to read, write, compute and think critically," she said. Humanities, arts, music and the language of Spanish round out the curriculum.
The school also recognizes the importance of current events and modern technology.
Another aspect of Catholic schools is their sense of community, school spirit and respect for teachers, each other and the world around them.
At St. Patrick's, Principal Joseph Batiste oversees 530 students. Jan Orrin of St. Charles said he's doing a good job. Her two children are enrolled at St. Patrick's: Matt in fifth grade, Meagan in first.
"This school has great teachers and a caring principal." Orrin said. "The kids have a great deal of respect for him. He knows all their names and the names of parents."
Batiste said another valuable sense of community in attending a Catholic school is being connected to a parish.
Many of the faculty at St. Edward's Catholic High School in Elgin, a coed school, are members of St. Patrick's parish, creating another level of continuity between grammar school and high school.
Jackie Rio of Wayne, whose three children attend St. Pat's, appreciates that focus.
"We're one big, happy family here," she said.
Prepared for the future
In the halls of Marmion Academy, a Catholic high school for boys in Aurora, Headmaster Basil Yonder, O.S.B. (Order of St. Benedict) tends to his flock of 450 young men. When he passes them in the hall, wearing his traditional Benedictine monk's robe, there is always a warm and deferential greeting of "Hello, father." He responds by greeting them each by name.
Sister Mary Megan Farrelly, O.P. (Order of Preachers), supervises 415 young women at Rosary High School, an all-girls school in Aurora.
"Religion is a part of everything we do," Sister Mary Megan said.
"It is a powerful force for all we do. …