National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2015 is January 25 – 31. Schools typically observe National Catholic Schools Week with Masses, open house and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.
Orange County Catholic asked three veteran Catholic educators from the Diocese of Orange to talk about their views on Catholic schools and to share some of their personal experiences:
“A Catholic school education has always been considered a quality education that encompasses both the expectation for academic excellence and the opportunity for growth of personal values. Regardless of your personal faith, when you buy into a Catholic education, you are choosing to embrace the understanding that you want more for your child than just academic excellence. You want your child to grow as person with a deep rooted sense of respect for other people.
“I have had the joy of working in a Catholic school setting for more than 25 years, and I truly see the difference for young people. There is a richness of advantages of a Catholic education, particularly at the secondary level for young people, because this is when they begin to make more personal life decisions for themselves. They begin to explore the young adult opportunities for choosing to volunteer to make a difference in the lives of others. They are more independent and feel confident making positive decisions about faith, about life, and about relationships with others.
“At Connelly, we believe that every student benefits from an opportunity to experience diversity and global perspective. The word catholic means “universal” and the program goals of Cornelia Connelly School embrace the idea that every student will be enriched through the opportunity to build understanding and respect for the faith traditions of others. One of the hallmarks of a Cornelia Connelly graduate is that she is “a woman of faith, joy and action, grounded in the tradition of Roman Catholicism with an understanding and respect for the faith traditions of others” and that she is “a woman of compassion who values the dignity of every individual and embraces cultural diversity.”
—Margaret Meland, Director of Admissions/Advancement, Cornelia Connelly School, Anaheim
“Catholic education is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Parents gifting their children with a Catholic education are laying a spiritual foundation that will inspire and guide them throughout their lifetime. Their children will be nurtured in the Gospel message and challenged to see themselves as able to make a difference in the world. An important value learned in a Catholic school community is one of inclusion, helping each child to be respectful of others. Children recognize that they are called to be responsible global citizens. They are encouraged to recognize the presence of Christ in themselves and others. The formation begun at home is continued in Catholic school.
“A Catholic education offers a strong academic program. Teachers commit to teaching the whole child, developing the uniqueness of each individual. Parents, as their children’s first teachers, work in partnership with the teachers to foster success for each child. Catholic school students learn that God is present and active in their lives and in the world. They learn that excellence is a reflection of God’s blessings.
“Catholic school students learn to experience God’s presence and grace in their lives through prayer and community. Students receive an excellent faith-filled education that prepares them for higher learning and gives them the opportunity to make a difference in the world. They learn how to respond to the calling of the Master Teacher with generosity and faith.”
—Margaret Harlow, Principal, Holy Family Cathedral School, Orange
“My journey in Catholic education began long before my ministry as a Catholic school educator. As the eldest of five siblings who completed 12 years of Catholic school, it is evident upon reflection that the immense impact of this experience has influenced my daily interactions with my students, parents, faculty and staff.
“I am eternally grateful for my parents, whose strong faith and lived values realized the life-long gift they could impart to their children through Catholic education. This required great sacrifice on their part, but this sacrifice reaped great rewards; academic excellence, discipline, personal integrity and community values of hard work, faith and respect were imparted and ingrained in their children. Most importantly, the community of religious sisters and priests that I experienced on my journey nurtured and strengthened my spirituality that and allows me to share those values with the community that I now serve.
“The new year brings us a renewed opportunity to celebrate Catholic schools and focus on the gifts and values that Catholic education provides to our young people as well as its contributions to our church, our community and our nation. We especially honor and thank those who contribute to the success of Catholic schools: students, families, faculty and staff, volunteers, community supporters and local and national leaders.
“I am blessed to be a part of this dedicated and committed community of faith and humbly thank all that have selflessly given of themselves to provide the gift of Catholic education for our children.”
—Janice Callender, Principal, St. Bonaventure School, Huntington Beach
Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools by the Numbers
41 Catholic Schools
31 PK-8 Diocesan Schools (27 Parish Affiliated Schools 4 Multi-parish or Diocesan Schools)
3 PK-8 Non-Diocesan Catholic Schools
3 Diocesan High Schools
4 Non-diocesan Catholic High Schools
PK-8: 11,210 (Total Capacity 14,000)
High School: 6,725 (Total Capacity 6,065)
Total enrollment in Catholic Schools: 19,052
Diocesan PK-8 Schools have shown a 1% increase in enrollment over 2013-14
Diocesan High Schools have shown a 2% increase in enrollment over 2013-14
Catholic Population in Diocesan Schools
High School: 74%